Artistic Expressions

Karman Hotchkiss, contributing writer for Michigan Travel Ideas, shares insider tips on how to successfully navigate and get the most out of any art fair this season.

This year, I plan to kick off the art fair season with a one-two punch of festivals—the East Lansing Art Festival and the Michigan State University Arts and Crafts Show. These dual events—across the street from each other in East Lansing—give me a taste of just about every kind of art you can imagine.

As you head to art fairs in your area this summer, here are a couple of tips:

  • Pack a cheat sheet with measurements and paint colors. My friend Susan doesn’t venture into an art show without her little zipper bag of home data. She knows the exact measurement of that space above the fireplace and has paint chips for her hard-to-match lavender bathroom. So when she falls in love with a painting, vase or rug, she knows if it will fit or match.
  • Chat with the artists. Art fairs usually put you face-to-face with the creators. What a great way to learn the story behind each piece. At last year’s East Lansing show, I learned delightful details about wood turning from Michigan artist Ted July, whose wooden bowls with bark rims intrigued me. This year, you’ll find him at booth #94.
  • Don’t miss the kid art. Most festivals sponsor a hands-on area for children and display works from local schools. This is a wonderful place to experience the pure joy of unaffected artistic expression. It might even draw out your inner artist.
  • Check out companion shows. Wherever there’s a sophisticated juried art show, you can bet there’s probably a grassroots arts and crafts fair nearby. (In East Lansing, a mere boulevard separates the two.) These craftier shows offer plenty of fun, interesting, sometimes more practical finds that complement the work of the professional artists. 
  • Go home with something. If a big piece isn’t in your budget (or won’t fit in the car), you can still go home with a memento. Many artists sell note cards, magnets or other small reproductions of their work. These are a great way to celebrate artistic spirit without spending a lot.

For a listing of art shows in Michigan this summer, please visit michigan.org.

Karman Hotchkiss, a native Midwesterner, is a contributing writer for Michigan Travel Ideas. Every time she attends an art fair, she wants to go home and lock herself in her crafting room for a week.