For art enthusiasts the wait is over, with the return of the 32nd Annual Plymouth Art in the Park this weekend.
Art in the Park, Michigan's second largest art fair next to Ann Arbor, will feature more than 400 different artist exhibits from all over the U.S. and Canada. Last year, the event drew about 300,000 people to downtown Plymouth in just three days.
Art in the Park will run 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
"It's jammed; it's a lot of people, but it's still a friendly atmosphere," Raychel Rork, Art in the Park president said. "You can still walk around. There's other events that are almost too big, we think. And this is a comfortable family friendly atmosphere, but it does get real busy."
Rork began helping her mother, Dianne Quinn, organize and manage Art in the Park in elementary school when she licked stamps and envelopes for the event. Now - with a college degree in art history and art administration - she has graduated to helping organize and manage it.
Art in the Park draws new people and events every year, according to Rork.
"One of the themes we're seeing is a lot of personalization, both for kids and adults," Rork said. "They'll put your name on a sign, put your name on a shirt, put your name on some jewelry. We have personalized music CDs for kids where they will take your child's name and put it in the music so when you play the song, it is singing a song to your kid - which is really cool. We have one artist who will take all the names in your family and make this beautiful family tree with pressed flowers in it to hang in your home. I would say that's a huge trend right now."
Plymouth resident Brian Hill has created a new job out of the personalization theme.
Hill's business, Every Photo Tells a Story, features unique letters — or shapes that look like letters — from cities around the country. The customer chooses the word or name and then customizes the design.
Hill got the idea while on vacation with his wife in South Haven. He saw a similar idea in a gift shop, went home, and created his own using images around Plymouth.
"It started as a part time passion and turned into a second job," Hill said. "One friend saw it, then another friend and another friend. And my wife said you should try and sell these in the art fair."
That was in 2008. That first Art in the Park, Hill realized that most of the attendees were not from Plymouth and he must adapt. Instead of just offering Plymouth images, Hill now has cities around the country. And instead of doing just black and white, he does color.
"What I sell today is completely different than what I sold four years ago and that's because there's such a diverse crowd that comes to the art fair that really draws from more than Plymouth, Canton, Northville and Livonia."
Hill said he does about 10 to 12 art fairs a year and sells his work in about 30 shops in Michigan, Florida, Illinois and Washington.
"I've done the Ann Arbor fair and each of the art fairs have their own unique sort of flavor to them. Plymouth is near and dear to my heart, so I like to support everything going on here. But it's also a great show. Ann Arbor I think can be a little unwieldy. It's such a big, big show. Sometimes for folks, it can be a little overwhelming. I think Plymouth has got the right size and feel to it. It's not too big or too small and it's a great diversity. It's always in my top one or two shows every year. I would never miss the Plymouth show, it's one of the events I look forward to the most.
Rork said another major theme is re-purposed and recycled artwork.
"Purses made out of record albums, jewelry made out of typewriter keys," she said. "We're still seeing a lot of that, what's old is cool again. It's still really popular, the funky recycled stuff and turning it into a piece of art."
Sisters Kristen Dillenbeck-Anderson and Erin Dillenbeck are no strangers to Art in the Park. Both women participate in the event's live art demos by drawing murals. Anderson's specialty is living murals while Dillenbeck's is chalk.
"The theme this year is going to be Van Gogh," Rork said. "So they're going to do several famous Van Gogh pieces on the ground in chalk. And they do that over three days until it's completed."
Anderson, who now lives in New York, began doing living murals in 2006 after her sister began working with chalk. She came up with the idea of body painting then combined it with her love of live murals. This is her third year at Art in the Park.
"I used to do plein air painting with mother at Liberty Fest years ago," Anderson said. "Before that I was a face painter and I always enjoyed live painting and live works because you can engage your audience a little bit more. Instead of somebody coming up, looking at your artwork and walking way - wondering what you were trying to do as an artist - this is exciting and it gets people involved. People like to come up an watch and ask questions."
This year's living mural will be a bit different because she will be using rolling canvas that will allow her to paint the ground rather just the scenery. Anderson will also be keeping with the Van Gogh theme.
"I'll be doing Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum," she said. "It will be life size. I'm going to create, essentially a cafe. My model will be painted into it to look like a character in the painting. So when you look at it, it will look like a painting, but you'll be able to recognize him as a person."
Anderson has demonstrated her living mural as well as just body painting at many different shows in Michigan and in New York.
"I do different types of promotional materials and fashion shows, it's not always the big mural," she said. "I'm even for hire on Halloween. I've done a lot of Mystiques (the X-Men character) and a lot of tigers. usually people come out of the woodwork on Halloween. The day before, I get hundreds of phone calls."
New to Art in the Park this year is Lego's world of Ninjago. The Lego's "Spinjitzu Masters" Tour will camp out in Kellogg Park for the weekend. Children, both large and small, are invited to learn the art of spinjitzu, or ninja spinning.
Attendees can snap a picture with a larger-than-life-sized Ninja made completely out of LEGO bricks, as well as receive free wristbands and official LEGO Ninjago playmats. Children can also enter to win a Nintendo DS prize pack that includes two LEGO video games.
"We're honored to be chosen as one of the eight places in the country the tour is going to stop," Rork said. "We think it's a great fit. Lego is creative. It promotes making things and it's good for brain development. It's going to be a huge fun, thing and we always like things for the kids to do as well."
Art in the Park will feature a free shuttle service operating continuously between Automotive Components Holding (formerly Visteon) and Plymouth City Hall. The shuttle hours are Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
For more information, visit www.artinthepark.com.