people walking around tent to tent
Attendees of the Palmer Park Art Fair walk around the west side park during the 2015 event. (Courtesy photo from Mark Loeb)

A summertime tradition filled with art, music and literature is on tap this weekend for residents of Detroit’s Palmer Park neighborhood and beyond. 

The Palmer Park Art Fair is celebrating its 10th anniversary Saturday and Sunday at the park along Woodward between McNichols and Seven Mile on the city’s northwest side. The free event will feature more than 100 artists from across the Midwest, including teen and emerging artists from metro Detroit. 

“We have juried artists, we have the emerging artists. I think we have a wider variety than any other show in the area that I’ve seen in terms of people who are in different stages in their careers,” said Mark Loeb, founder of Integrity Shows, an event management company that helps organize the art fair. “People love it. They bring their families and everything.” 

The art fair originally started in the 1970s and ran for about nine years before shutting down, Loeb said. In 2014, People for Palmer Park, a nonprofit dedicated to revitalizing the park, relaunched the event and has kept it going since. 

Barbara Barefield, a People for Palmer Park volunteer and longtime resident in nearby Palmer Woods, said the fair is an opportunity to support the arts community and the revitalization of Detroit. 

“It’s a wonderful way for the community to celebrate together and uplift the city,” she said. “It really changes the character of a neighborhood and a city when you have these kinds of community events on a regular basis in a safe, beautiful space like Palmer Park.” 

A homecoming celebration 

Attendees of the weekend festivities can browse and buy works from artists such as painter Carl Carter, spray paint artist David Ruggeri, claymaker Debbie La Pratt and milliner Ella Issac. 

The art enthusiast group Detroit Fine Arts Breakfast Club will showcase 12 emerging artists, while the Mint Artist Guild will focus on the works of six teen artists. In addition, Progressive Art Studio Collective will display pieces from Wayne County artists with developmental disabilities as well as works from the TEAD One Artist in Residence Program and the Detroit Art Teachers Association. 

Mint Artists Guild co-founder and Loeb’s wife Vickie Elmer said the organization has created a space for young, fresh visual artists in metro Detroit. The two helped create the guild in 2015 after Loeb kept getting inquiries from high schoolers about submitting their artwork to the art fair. 

“I really believe that we still need to make sure that we’re giving young people an opportunity that even if they can’t afford an CCS (College for Creative Studies) education or summer camp at Cranbrook, they can still come and be part of Mint Artists Guild and sell their work,” Elmer said. 

On the food side, people can check out trucks from The Pink Flamingo, the Lobster Food Truck, the Great Bread Company and Uncle Calvin’s Sweet Potato Pies. Motor City Brewing Works will also have a tent at the park. 

Outside of art, the Palmer Park Art Fair offers music, dance and storytelling, which organizers said they are greatly expanding this year. Saturday music acts include flutist Deblon Jackson, musician and singer Droxity, jazz group Taylor Made Jazz and African youth dance troupe Alnur Dance Company. Sunday will feature a performance from dance company Artlab J and jazz ensemble the Kris Johnson Group. 

In the authors tent, guests can listen to readings and performances from members of nonprofit Legacy of Literacy and the Detroit Association of Black Storytellers. 

“Literacy is something that we’re very excited about and storytelling is a way to get people started on wanting to learn to read,” Loeb said. 

Loeb, who lives in the Green Acres neighborhood, said the art fair usually sees around 8,000 attendees each year, with some coming from across the country. 

“It’s a combination of a neighborhood festival but it also brings back a lot of the people who used to live in the city and moved away,” he said. “It’s our homecoming for them.” 

Elmer also sees the art fair as a homecoming celebration. 

“The whole art fair has a feeling of all the creative people coming out and seeing their friends, seeing the other creative artists,” she said. “It’s just a sweet feeling to have that kind of energy.” 

The art fair runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. 

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