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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Davis Art Market: a bold example of artist empowerment

But the future of the art market is uncertain

By CORALIE LOON — arts@theaggie.org

The Davis Art Market is a community-organized street vending market that takes place every Saturday on 3rd and B street. A block away from the more “formal” Davis Farmers Market, local artists, students and creators set up every weekend to sell paintings, jewelry, tarot card readings, clothes, stickers, music, zines and more. But in the past few weeks, the future of the well-loved community has been uncertain.

The Art Market started a year and a half ago when Heron Rana, its current facilitator and social media manager, decided to spontaneously sell art with her friends on the street. After that day, she said, “it just boomed and more people kept showing up. A lot of new artists would show up every week.” 

Amber Parks (@feralgaycrafts on Instagram), a UC Davis evolutionary anthropology alumn, started making and selling animal bone jewelry at the market last year, and is now beginning to sell their products on Etsy. The Art Market has been a big inspiration for them.

“When I was a student, I never did anything creative… because at the time I didn’t think that I could,” Parks said. “But then I was talking to other people that sold there and they were like, ‘Yeah, you can just start doing whatever and people will like it and vibe with it.’”

For Parks and many others, the Art Market is about finding a creative community that will support you. Independent artist Q Ezekiel (@q.creationz on Instagram), who has sold colorful accessories and “wearable art” at the market since last year, reflected on the people who sell at and visit the market. 

“That’s one of my favorite things, is to see people who I would just want to know,” Ezekiel said. “They’re not just customers, you know.”

The self-sustaining and community-organized quality of the market is what makes it stand out from similar markets: There’s no one to ask permission from, and there’s no need to pay fees or sign up weeks in advance. The market’s spirit can be summed up in three simple words: Just show up.

This is why, according to Rana, when the Davis Business Association threatened the market due to complaints from the Farmers Market and local businesses a few weeks ago, many vendors and artists were concerned. However, California State Senate Bill 946 (SB-946) protects vendors selling on sidewalks, which means that the city has no legal precedent for shutting down the market.

Still, Rana said that the Davis Business Association wants to “work with” the Art Market by making it an official event, which would mean restrictions, permits and location and time changes. The Davis Business Association was contacted on Feb. 21 and did not respond for comment as of Feb. 27.

Toni Rizzo (artifulworld.com), a local artist who sells acrylic pour paintings and stickers at the market and online, has gone to other markets but appreciates the freedom of this one. 

“I love doing any market, but there’s all these fees and permits and things that you have to do, and it can be really hard, especially when you’re just getting started selling art or if it’s not your full-time job,” Rizzo said. 

Despite SB-946, Rana’s recent conversation with the Davis Business Association revealed that there are ways they may try to work around the law and force the market to comply, although the specifics of such regulations have not been discussed.

While she is willing to move forward with an open mind, to Rana, the magic of the market rests in its lack of formal organization, in the fact that it happens simply because people decide to show up. In her eyes, the market is often misunderstood as profit-based, “and that’s not what it’s about,” she said. “From my perspective, we are building community, and we’re supporting each other.”

For now, the Art Market continues to fill Davis with vibrance and creativity every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. More information can be found on their Instagram (@davis_street_market).

Written by: Coralie Loon — arts@theaggie.org

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