My view from the front porch of a Second St. home on the Old West Side last fall was worthy of a Norman Rockwell illustration with a modern twist. The sidewalk on the picturesque tree-lined street was teeming with people walking dogs, pushing baby strollers, or just strolling hand-in hand on a beautiful autumn day.
The modern twist was the sign at the bottom of the driveway: bright white with an eye-popping red “Art Hop!” logo and an arrow pointing up to me and my jewelry display on the porch. Some people came up to see my work; others waved and said hi. In a word, it was neighborly.
The Ann Arbor Westside Art Hop is slowly turning the business model of selling art on its ear. Conventional art fairs invite people to a central location where artists are neatly lined up in rows of tents. Art Hop does things differently. Local artists display their work in homes, studios, and front porches—and invite people in. A downloadable street map on the Art Hop website is the treasure map identifying artists’ locations.
The first Art Hop in 2012 was on a Sunday. Twelve artists showed their work and paid $5 for that privilege. Today, Art Hop is a two-day, twice-a-year event in June and October. Last fall, seventy artists were featured at thirty-five sites. Participation cost $40, a fraction of the cost of art fairs.
Art Hop is the definition of artistic diversity. Nancy Biehn sells her Sweet Gem Confections from her enclosed back porch. A few blocks away, former U-M art dean Ted Ramsay welcomes people into his Victorian home where a lifetime of work is on display.
Art Hop is the brainchild of five brains: Sophie Grillet, Larry and Lucie Nisson, Laila Kujala, and Susan Major. The group conceived the idea, developed the logo, and coined the name. “It’s all grassroots,” Larry says. “The goal is to spread beauty and help artists have a place to show their work.”
Lucie adds, “Sophie has done a tremendous job increasing the number of artists and venues.” On her regular walks, Sophie recruits neighbors to participate. “That’s how I got involved,” Nancy said. “Four years ago, Sophie stopped by and invited me.”
The Nisson home on Lutz is the heartbeat of Art Hop. A few nights before the show, Larry and Lucie throw a pizza party for artists and hosts in their Disney-
esque backyard. Embedded in the sloping ground are dozens of Larry’s large blown-glass sculptures surrounded by cascading streams rippling into ponds. It’s a feast for the senses.
Art Hop spans two neighborhoods. From the iconic Old West Side, an easy hop across Seventh St. takes you into the gently rolling streets of the Eberwhite neighborhood. The week before Art Hop, those bright white signs sprout like dandelions on street corners, homes, and businesses. Argus Farm Stop—another business that is fiercely local—is Art Hop’s newest host. They will have four artists in their cafe on Liberty, including me. If you attend Art Hop, I invite you to stop by and see my jewelry, or just wave and say hi.
This month’s Ann Arbor Westside Art Hop is on June 11 and 12 (see Events, June 11). It should be the best ever, though organizers promise it will remain quirky.