Celebrating 52 years, the Flint Art Fair is poised once again to deliver the number one favorite summer event in Michigan as voted on by MLive Media Group. Since its inception in 1967, the Flint Art Fair has been presented by the Friends of Modern Art, a nonprofit with a mission to promote interest in, understanding of and appreciation of contemporary art at the Flint Institute of Arts among the region. The fair is put on entirely by volunteers as the funds raised are directly used to help fund exhibitions, programs and art acquisitions at the Flint Institute of Arts. Juried to ensure the highest caliber of artists, the event introduces original works from as many as 175 established and emerging artists from Michigan and beyond in various genres, including ceramics, glass, painting, jewelry, fiber, metal, mixed media, photography, printmaking, sculpture and wood. This prestigious but entertaining two-day event is held on the lawn of the Flint Institute of Arts in the heart of the Flint Cultural Center.
This year, one of the public’s favorite artists returns. Brian J. Sullivan has been participating in the Flint Art Fair “for several years,” and his popularity can be attributed to his style of specializing in very large and colorful paintings of “Flint/Detroit/car” history. This year will be extra special as he will be showcasing an exceptionally large painting (almost 8 by 10 feet!) made up of four separate canvases (each 45 by 60 inches) with the title of “Flint-57.” What makes this piece so elite is that it has been his 10-year project.
“I started this canvas in 2008 and have been working on it until I now believe it is finished and ready to be shown this year,” he proudly states. Distinctively, he is accepting any suggestions for a place to exhibit it after the fair.
Sullivan is an “artist’s artist” and he has always strived to create his artwork to be of very high standards. So, at this year’s Flint Art Fair, it will be the first time anyone will be able to see this painting – and it will be available for purchase.
“I am really excited about this large painting,” he says, “because I was able to include many more historical images of Flint/Detroit/Michigan than in my smaller paintings. I feel it is a fabulous painting which is very colorful and would be an interesting centerpiece in any space. Because it contains so many layers of integrated history and images, it is very engaging to look at and allows the viewer a fresh look each time as they see things they did not notice previously.”
Sullivan is a special person who seems like he has been a longtime friend from first conversations. Always interested in art forms, he recalls when other children were playing with Tinkertoys, he was taking things apart, such as old clocks and small machinery, and fashioning works of art with the pieces. While his parents were not into the arts per se, they fully supported Brian in his interest as demonstrated by sending him to consecutive years of summer art school at the Milwaukee Art Museum in his hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, during his elementary years. Throughout his schooling, he routinely enrolled in art classes and eventually received a fine arts degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
“It was there I got exposed to many facets of art,” he recalls. “It opened the door at the time because I knew art was for me. I could not relate to science or engineering, for example, but art made sense to me; this is what I was about.” He went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Illinois-Urbana. While there, he was awarded an art residency in France and for five months lived in an artist colony.
“I worked with some of the best artists in France, but the most challenging aspect was that I could not speak French!” he says with a hearty laugh. In other years, he studied in Poland at the Warsaw Academy of Arts along with study time in England too. To this day, Brian respectfully values the time he spent learning from those professional artists in their studios.
He has been entering art fairs and shows for over 25 years while passionately striving to craft high-end gallery and museum-quality works. Brian expounds, “I have always been interested in history, old signs, cars, old theater and diner signs and nostalgic Americana. I have traveled around the United States for art fairs and art exhibitions and along the way have photographed many old signs, buildings, classic cars etc., some of which eventually ends up in my art. The ‘Flint/Detroit’ painting series is just another extension of my love of these long-forgotten and many times discarded objects. I love to sit in a studio and make my art and for people to enjoy.”
Brian J. Sullivan travels the country for his work but is delighted every time at the Flint Art Fair. “When I check into the Flint Art Fair, I feel very welcomed. As many shows as I have attended over the years, I have never heard anybody so proud of their town as the people of Flint are, and they always offer me to see things all around town. In this town despite all the perceived issues, people enthusiastically talk about their community by ‘selling’ it as a tourist town. I am impressed and look forward to the Flint Art Fair every year!”
The Flint Art Fair
Hours of Operation
Saturday, June 8, 2019:
10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sunday, June 9, 2019:
11 am – 5 p.m.
Located on the front lawn of the Flint Institute of Arts in the Flint Cultural Center.
1120 E. Kearsley St.
Flint, MI 48503
Free parking is available behind the Flint Institute of Arts, as well as at other Flint Cultural Center institutions (Sloan Museum, The Whiting, Flint Youth Theater). Please note: Kearsley Street is closed from Crapo Street to Walnut Street.
General admission: $5
Children (12 and under): FREE
A variety of outside food vendors will be on hand.