U-M students selected to present at Ann Arbor Art Fair

July 19, 2023
Prints by Emily Mann.

Each summer, a handful of students are selected to present at the Ann Arbor Art Fair. The AAAF has the New Art, New Artists (NANA) program through which college students receive one-on-one mentoring from staff of the art fair.

Additionally, the Guild of Artists and Artisans has the Emerging Artists Program, which teaches participants how to apply for art fairs, price their work, select tools/technology necessary for a great display, market their work, prepare for shows of various sizes, and more.

For Emily Mann (Stamps, ’24), Sophia Gallette (Stamps, ’23) and Tyler Dunston (Rackham, ’24) of the University of Michigan, this summer’s fair will be their first time selling their work in the art fair circuit.

For Mann, a printmaker, connecting with four different mentors through the NANA program gave her new insight into the business side of art making. In an art fair setting, “not only are you an artist, but you are a business person providing a product for people to buy and you need to engage with customers, which is different from the classroom where we focus on the making of art and our ideas,” Mann said.

Most of the prints she will be selling were created in the classroom from wood blocks, lino prints, etchings and lithographs.

In an artist statement written as part of Mann’s Writing in Art and Design course, she said, “I am preoccupied with visual dichotomies of order and chaos, rational and irrational, geometric and organic, which are realized as surreal spaces that one could imagine themself inhabiting. Creating these landscapes is my way of processing my place in a world that is bigger and more complex than I could ever understand. They are a form of escape, as well as a reflection of my own worldview and experiences.”

Nature Scapes jewelry collection by Sophia Gallette.
Nature Scapes jewelry collection by Sophia Gallette.

Gallette is a jewelry and accessory designer who just graduated from U-M’s Stamps School of Art & Design. Her collection at this summer’s fair is inspired by nature, focusing on contemporary and unique styles that are worn on the body using precious metals, stones, sustainable materials and found objects.

“Nature Scapes is a jewelry collection inspired by interactions around nature,” she said. “Replicating exactly what I see allows me to manipulate nature on the human body. Using patterns in nature for my designs can be literal or can lead to more abstract interpretations.

“Throughout each season, nature changes and inspires me. This past winter, icicles were growing on window sills, each one completely unique. The sterling silver earrings evolved from this scape: freezing the beauty of icicles into a more permanent formation.”

Coming to U-M already knowing she wanted to pursue jewelry design, Gallette found ways to incorporate this work into her required coursework, which allowed her “to play around with a lot of different materials and technologies to add to my craft and explore different routes of how I can make jewelry and discovering my own style and way of creating.”

This is not the first time Gallette has designed jewelry inspired by nature. During her time studying abroad at Central Saint Martins, University of Arts London, she participated in a partnership with Swarovski’s sustainability team creating “Suffocation of the Sea”—a statement necklace featuring fishing net, Swarovski crystals and a brass cage around the neck of the model as a commentary on ghost fishing and the pollution of our oceans.

She sees the art fair as a way of understanding how the public responds to her work to guide her design process moving forward with sales in mind, and as her first step postgraduation toward creating her own brand.

With an entrepreneurship minor through the Ross Business School to supplement her arts degree, Gallette has armed herself with essential tools to not only create jewelry she is passionate about, but to market it in a way that will lead to a sustainable career in her chosen craft.

Cave by Tyler Dunston.
Cave by Tyler Dunston.

On the other hand, Dunston, a Rackham graduate student and future intern at the U-M Museum of Art, is a poet and a painter.

“The pieces I am exhibiting at the art fair are mostly oil paintings with some acrylic and mixed media. A lot of them are from a series in which I was trying to explore landscape through abstraction,” he said.

This shows up in his art in two ways: creating landscape paintings that are guided by interactions between form and color, and painting pure abstraction with a suggestion of landscape, such as adding a line across the piece that evokes the idea of a horizon.

“I was thinking about the kind of disappearing landscape that you can get through abstraction, and how that resonates with some of the context and anxieties around the climate crisis … not in a direct commentary way, but there is something that appeals to me about abstraction as a way of approaching landscape because it feels so not solid, and that was evocative of some of the feelings I have been having about the situation,” he said.

Through biweekly meetings with the Guild, participants learn more about submitting their work to juried shows, updating their websites, dealing with customers and how to make a living through selling their work.

“The Guild was really generous with their time and giving artists who have a sense of the kind of art they want to work on but don’t have as much of a sense of some of the more practical knowledge that is really helpful for someone trying to sell their work to know,” Dunston said.

The Ann Arbor Art Fair is free to the public and takes place July 20-22.