Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The Art Fair Cometh -- But without its Best Town Crier

Each Summer, my relationship to the Ann Arbor Art Fair changes a bit. My stamina and crowd patience vary, along with the luxury of meandering time. Still, something in me begins stirring in early July. Before I suss out official websites, prior to reminders of limited wall space & financing, the musing starts. Which favorites will return? Which streets hold surprises, and how long before people resentfully mash into too-small store fronts, waiting for the end of a downpour? 

This year is bittersweet, with the recent passing of Stephen Kerr, beloved arts community supporter, artist & retired art teacher. Ever the champion of the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair -- "the Original,"* one could reliably spot Stephen orbiting the info table/metallic robotic busker or any of the new or returning artist booths. Did you glance at a shirt? Hed readily sell you one. Did you seem too hurried? He'd slow your roll. Otherwise, how could you be sure you'd seen everything worthy of being seen? The name of the game was appreciation. Discernment, yes, but also delight. Wry or wicked humor. Surprise. We always traded the names of artists who excited us. Sometimes Stephen would materialize as I surveyed an artist's work ("Did you know? He puts serial killers in all his cereal bowls, aren't they wonderful?" "Did you know, she has work at MOMA?") At other times, he'd startle me* with a breezy introduction to the artist: "Oh do you know Marian, she's a writer, I bet she'd write about *you*, she wants more things to write about~~"  That's the way he worked: seeking out the joyful, connecting people through that, & spurring people onward. 
Stephen appears in a couple of my past art fair posts --> here.
I never had the pleasure of being taught by him in an "official" capacity, but the (glowing) consensus was that he held you to high standards, helped jog you outside your comfort zone and far, far beyond your own perceived limitations. Stephen's beautiful memorial service was a testament to his, his wife Mary and their family's shared generosity of spirit and love. 

The opening poem was read by a grand nephew:
Artist Chris Roberts-Antieau, said:"I know he believed in me and so I was able to believe in myself." His nieces' tribute opined:"An ordinary life is heroic in its own way. And that was our Uncle Stephen...He embraced a life of meaning...didn't drape himself in ego...He lived a life of good intent." The service underscored the astounding amount just one person can do with a life, and how far it ripples out.  To never lose sight of how interconnected we are, to pursue delight & meaning~~! 

Kevin, Stephen's twin brother, handed out stickers bearing his motto, which I imagine most of us hear in his voice, as he frequently concluded conversations by uttering it:

Naturally, this post falls far short of the fabulosity and wonder of Stephen -- and how multifaceted he was. I just know in a few weeks, maybe I'll cross paths with you at the art fair(s). Seeking out old friends and new. Hoping to be amazed, or amused. I know when I experience this, the first person I'll want to tell will be Stephen.

*As all fans hasten to add,  lest we forget the mammoth fair is actually four very differently juried fairs.
 **I startle easily.

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