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Tess Marhofer Turns Ann Arbor Streets into Her Canvas

July 11, 2019

Spend a weekend at the 2019 Ann Arbor Art Fair and see chalk artist Tess Marhofer’s creations of Frida Kahlo.

By Kristina Zheng

Featured photo courtesy Tess Marhofer

Sometimes, all it takes to create a masterpiece is some chalk, a sidewalk and a community.

Tess Marhofer is a chalk street artist who will make her fifth appearance at the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, The Original July 18-21. The event is one of the four fairs at the annual Ann Arbor Art Fair. This year, the fair will celebrate its 60th anniversary as artists from across the world transform Ann Arbor into a vibrant city filled with original art, live performances and street food.

Ann Arbor Street Art Fair 2018Allison Farrand for SEEN

A view of North University Street and the State Street Art Fair and the ‘The Original’ Street Art Fair, two of the art fairs that make up the annual event in downtown Ann Arbor.

“I’m so excited, and I look forward to the event,” says Marhofer, 28, a medical illustrator from the village of Fife Lake. “What’s most exciting is that I see a lot of familiar faces that come to the fair every year, and they stop by the street painting. I have great conversations with people who remember me from past years as well.”

Photo courtesy of Tess Marhofer

Over a thousand artists will attend the event to showcase their pieces. Marhofer, in particular, will undertake a live demonstration of her chalk street art, in which she will recreate Frida Kahlo’s “Self-Portrait with Bonito.”

“(Frida Kahlo) is such a staple in our history as far as making her art about really current topics like identity, class and race, which I think is all a way for others to express themselves and for people to get to know them and for people to understand their culture as well,” Marhofer says.

Photo courtesy of Tess Marhofer

The Ann Arbor Art Fair is the largest juried art fair in the nation, with nearly a million attendees. Spanning over 30 city blocks in downtown Ann Arbor, the four-day extravaganza attracts people from across Michigan to explore and share their inner artistry.

“Art is absolutely a community,” Marhofer says. “The wonderful part about throwing a street painting in the middle of all of these fine artists is that it is a conversational piece. A big part of why I’m there is to stop and have conversations with the people who are attending the fair —whether it’s about the other art they’ve seen at the other booths, maybe something that they’ve purchased or to talk about the art that I’m doing.”

Ann Arbor Street Art Fair 2018Allison Farrand for SEEN

The Potter’s Guild’s Sarah Saks-Fithian, of Ann Arbor, leads a demonstration for a small crowd at the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair.

Aside from the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, The Original, the event also includes the Summer Art Fair, the State Street Art Fair and the South University Art Fair. You can spend a day at each, exploring, viewing and learning about the styles each passionate artist and musician produces.

“There’s a little bit of preparation, but it’s more just being ready to be present during the time of the fair and ready to have those interactions, and just ready to have a good time doing what I love,” Marhofer says.

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