If previous years are any indication, you’ll need a break from the blistering heat and dense crowds somewhere between the fused-glass jewelry, abstract paintings and giant fruit sculptures at the Ann Arbor Art Fair, which starts Wednesday and runs through Saturday.
I suggest making your way to an ancient treasure trove of art that’s free to admire in comfort at the University of Michigan’s Kelsey Museum of Archeology.
But be advised that no matter how much you love those magical amulets, mummy masks or priceless coins, you can’t take them home.
Located in the quaint, turreted building on South State Street, the Kelsey is offering free, docent-led drop-in tours at 2 p.m. each art fair day.
Best bet is to arrive early at the entrance to the new Upjohn exhibit wing, where more than 3,000 tools, vessels and other artifacts offer a window into the lives of the ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and other Mediterranean and Near Eastern civilizations.
As Cathy Person, the museum’s education outreach director, says, you could think of amphora — two-handled storage jars used for wine or oil — as “the Tupperware of antiquity.”
She also tells why some ancient Egyptians covered their fingernails with gold: to protect against demons. And what about those little burial statues called ushabtis? They were workers for the dead, placed in royals’ tombs to serve in the afterlife, she says.
For kids, the Kelsey’s most popular item is the mummy of a little boy around 3 years old with six fingers on one hand, Person notes.
And lots of Facebook fans are following the ancient Egyptian priest, Djehutymose, whose mummy is missing from the museum’s coffin. On his very own Facebook page, the Mummy Djehutymose says that his spirit, or “Ba,” still floats above his coffin and is looking for his mummy. It’s a clever, contemporary way for the Kelsey’s ancient inhabitants to connect with today’s audience. Check www.lsa.umich.edu/kelsey
If you overdose on art during Ann Arbor’s four-in-one art fair, swing by Matthaei Botanical Gardens to see the other big show in town: the once-in-a-lifetime bloom of the university’s 80-year-old American Agave plant, brought from Mexico in 1934.
Wispy yellow flowers finally opened last week from some of the more than 1,000 buds high up on the thick stalk of this late-bloomer, also known as a “Century Plant.” It grew so fast in recent weeks – up to six inches a day — that workers had to remove panes of glass in the conservatory roof.
It has topped out, so far, at more than 28 feet and is expected to bloom for another two weeks, according to Mike Palmer, horticulture manager. And, while it’s sad that the parent plant will die, he writes in the gardens’ blog, “It also grows ‘pups’ on the flower stalk and offsets at the base that are identical clones of the original plant.” Thousands of seeds also have the potential to grow new Agave plants and renew the cycle of life, he says.