Travel

Beyond the Ann Arbor Art Fair, catch two dazzling free shows while you're in town

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.

It may be Ann Arbor Art Fair Week but not all the treasures are for sale --namely the ancient artifacts in the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, where free docent-led tours are offered at 2 p.m. each day of the fair, Wednesday through Saturday. (Photo Credit: Susan R. Pollack)

Treasures from ancient civilizations are showcased in the new wing of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology in Ann Arbor. (Photo credit: Susan R. Pollack)

Treasures from ancient civilizations are showcased in the new wing of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology in Ann Arbor. (Photo credit: Susan R. Pollack)

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.

Taken in early June, this photo shows Matthaei Botanical Gardens' 80-year-old agave plant growing through the conservatory roof. It's now in bloom for about two weeks in Ann Arbor. (Photo Credit: Susan R. Pollack)

Taken in early June, this photo shows Matthaei Botanical Gardens’ 80-year-old agave plant growing through the conservatory roof. It’s now in bloom for about two weeks in Ann Arbor. (Photo Credit: Susan R. Pollack)

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.

Check http://mbgna.blogspot.com/2014/05/80-year-old-american-agave-getting.html

 

Susan R. Pollack
Globetrotting journalist and former Detroit News staff writer Susan R. Pollack has covered travel since 1985, visiting scores of countries on five continents, 47 states, six Canadian provinces and hundreds of cities, islands and outposts along the way. From Alaska, the Galapagos and New Zealand to Tasmania, Thailand and Wales, she has suffered the occasional lost luggage, jetlag and Montezuma’s revenge but still delights in sharing travel news and adventures with readers. In addition to The Detroit News, her award-winning stories have appeared in major newspapers including the Dallas Morning News, Toronto Star, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Chicago Sun Times; Midwest Living, Long Weekends, Hour Detroit, Michigan Meetings + Events and X-ology magazines, travelingmom.com and in several books, including "Rand McNally 2008 Ultimate NASCAR Road Trip Guide."