Ceramic artist Min Oh called her electrician with a specific request: she needed a warmer garage.
Oh wanted to set up a kiln to create mugs and other ceramic works to sell at festivals and at the Downtown Farmer’s Market in Salt Lake City’s Pioneer Park. Once the electrician rewired his garage so it would get warm enough for his plans to proceed, his dream of having a home studio came true. And Oh sold enough work at the farmer’s market last year to pay his bills.
That revenue stream came to a halt in April, when the market announced it would only allow farmers to sell produce and other foods, in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. “A lot of artists like me who produce from one studio had nowhere to go when COVID hit and they lost all of their income,” Oh said.
But in June, when Oh saw on Instagram that the Utah Arts Alliance was hosting an outdoor art market with special COVID-19 accommodations, “it felt like another door was opening for us,” she said. “It’s not like before, but at least we can connect with buyers and show our work to the public.”
the Arts and Crafts Market at The Gateway opened June 20 with little publicity as a sort of “test run,” according to Kimberly Angeli, UAA’s festival and events director.
“As an event planner, everything we’re trying to do now is incredibly difficult,” Angeli said. “There are so many responsibilities you carry to make sure you put public safety first.”
The organizers have provided disinfection stations at the entrance, in the middle of the market and at the exit. The stands were set up with 12 feet of space between them along Rio Grande Street. All UAA vendors and staff wore masks and gloves, and only visitors who wore masks were permitted entry, even before Governor Gary Herbert authorized a local mandate that County residents Salt Lake wears them in situations where social distancing is not possible.
The cabins were to be staggered, instead of facing each other, along the Rio Grande to allow sufficient spacing for safe lines of customers. Cashless transactions were required to purchase works from the 18 market vendors.
Angeli and his team felt the first event was safe enough to happen every Saturday. The market will continue to be held on Saturdays at The Gateway from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with the same accommodations, until at least the end of August and possibly longer.
She worked with artistic coordinator Chelsea Latta to develop the market after the alliance “caused some artists to take a bit of a panic about how they were going to support their businesses without the direct consumer environments they’ve depended on for so many years. years,” Angeli mentioned.
Latta explained that many artists, like Oh, rely entirely on income from markets and festivals across the United States to support themselves. “COVID has hit them all badly,” Latta said.
Oh said she did not meet the criteria to receive federal financial assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program, and said other artists she spoke to at the market also did not. received from government funds.
Oh, who was born in Seoul, South Korea, and moved to Utah 15 years ago, opened an Etsy shop last year to try to expand its audience. She devoted her attention to reaching more people online when COVID hit, but said she missed the connection that comes from selling her face-to-face work.
“With arts and crafts, and especially with my ceramic products, if you see it in person, it brings out all the colors and textures,” Oh said. “It’s completely different seeing it online. Even if the customer doesn’t buy anything, they appreciate the art and craftsmanship better by seeing it.
Some vendors, like Oh, sell their wares every Saturday. Others are put on a waiting list and rotate according to availability, but space is limited. Latta said the alliance is prioritizing those who rely on arts and crafts sales as their primary source of income a chance to sell.
“This marketplace is not the solution for these sellers,” Angeli said. “It’s just one of the many ways you have to move to become a successful artist now.”
Veronica Benavides was laid off from her job as an interior designer due to COVID-19 cuts in April. She had sold crafts at the Downtown Farmers Market three years ago, and when she received an email about the arts and crafts market, she signed up right away.
Benavides sells “things that people can use every day to brighten up their space,” she said. She donates coasters, wreaths and other home decor items to help cover her bills while she searches for her next job.
“It was nice to come out and show off everything I did while I was locked up in my house,” Benavides said. “I was really excited to be out there and socialize safely.”
She said the first few weeks of the market were slow, but “lately it’s starting to get lively. … It’s really cool to see people going out.
Amanda Tafua, who owns and operates Mountain West Supplies, a company that sells custom sports uniforms, had to rethink her business model when COVID-19 killed the market for them. The company started producing designer masks in March and Tafua sells them at the market.
“It’s amazing to see that by listening to what people need and looking for ways to help them, there will be a way to continue a business and be profitable,” Tafua said.
Switching from uniforms to masks allowed Tafua to keep his business afloat and ultimately bring back employees who had been laid off. She also sells her masks in pop-up shops and has donated many to local fire and police departments.
The market also provides the UAA with the opportunity to shine the spotlight on the arts and connect with new artists to include in its Urban Arts Gallery. The UAA Dreamscapes gallery and immersive art attraction, both located along Rio Grande Street, closed in March when the state closed non-essential businesses to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. They have since reopened with new safety measures.
“This whole year has been a lesson in humility,” Latta said. “Just being able to provide a venue has been an honor for me to help these people.”
Latta walks through the market every Saturday to check in with vendors and make sure everyone is following safety protocols. Vendors at Wolf Wares, which sells dog collars, bring their dogs, but no one is allowed to pet them for fear of spreading disease.
Foot traffic has increased sharply in recent weeks, Latta said, and “the vibe in the market is just great.” And the market has the space to safely accommodate more browsers, Angeli said.
Oh said she is grateful to be able to sell her ceramics at the market and hopes it will inspire the Salt Lake City community to support the arts.
“There are a lot of great artists here,” Oh said. “You don’t have to come and buy stuff. Get out of the house and come see the work.
ARTS AND CRAFTS MARKET AT THE DOORS
The Arts and Crafts Market at The Gateway is hosted by the Utah Arts Alliance with special COVID-19 precautions: masks are required, stalls are 12 feet apart, sanitizing stations are provided, and transactions are cashless.
When: Saturdays from 10 p.m. to 2 p.m., until at least the end of August, and possibly until October.
Where: Along Rio Grande Street in The Gateway, between 100 and 200 South in downtown Salt Lake City.