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Shaw Arts and Crafts Market Brings Artists and Art Lovers In From the Cold

Accompanying images can be viewed in the February 2015 issue PDF

By Alexander M. Padro*

It was November, and plunging temperatures, gusting winds, and forecasts of rain and snow made it clear that the outdoor Art Rave DC market at 11th and U Streets, NW, next to the Bohemian Caverns, faced shutting down for the winter.

A referral from one of the owners of the popular 9th Street antique home goods store Simon Vintage resulted in the market’s organizer asking Shaw Main Streets, “Is there anywhere in Shaw that the market could move to for the holidays?” A few phone calls and emails later, the Shaw Arts, Crafts and Fashion Market pop-up was born.

Douglas Development, the largest private commercial property owner in Shaw, offered the first floor of what longtime neighborhood residents still refer to as the Popeye’s Building at the northeast corner of Florida and Georgia Avenues, NW, as the venue for a holiday arts market.

In a matter of weeks, Art Rave DC curated a dazzling selection of work by established and emerging local and regional painters, jewelers, fashion designers, and other artisans, and the indoor market opened on December 6, 2014.

The market proved popular with both Art Rave DC’s existing clientele, as well as central Shaw and LeDroit Park residents and the throngs of visitors who come to the neighborhood to eat, drink and be entertained every week.

Promoted primarily through social media, and signage in the massive windows facing Florida and Georgia Avenues, the market‘s artisan lineup changed every week, with new artists rotating in and sharing space with others who became regulars. Live demonstrations of African kente cloth weaving and abstract painting also drew crowds. A typical weekend featured hand-painted tee shirts, hand-crafted copper jewelry, brightly patterned dresses, purses made from recycled materials, and provocative paintings – all selling equally well. Window displays changed weekly.

The artists and designers exhibiting at the market were grateful for the opportunity to show and sell their work during the holiday season. “This has been a game-changer for these artisans,” reflected Art Rave DC’s Kenneth David (“Chef Ken”) Acclar. “This is the first year they’ve ever been able to continue keep doing what they love until Christmas, after the weather normally has sent them home for the season.”

Neighborhood business owners have also benefited from having the Shaw Art Market on the corner instead of a vacant retail space and windows covered with leasing signage. Tammy Truong, owner of I Ching, an Asian fusion restaurant, has seen new customers coming to her six-month-old, three-story establishment during the weekends when the market is open. “We’ve really needed a big draw on the block,” Troung observed.

And then came Christmas, and the market went dark. But a tenant had not yet materialized for the space, and the phone calls and emails started coming in, asking “When are you opening again?”

So after a three-week hiatus, the market returned with a bang on January 16, 2015, with a night focused on paintings only, filled with live music, live painting, and a crowd of hundreds of people, ranging from skateboarders to art collectors. By the end of the night, the walls had empty spaces everywhere as a result of the vigorous sales that put smiles on the artists’ faces. One neighborhood business owner, Thai Xing’s Taw Vigsittaboot, bought three canvases to display in his new 9th Street restaurant, including one painted live that night.

Among the highlights of new additions to the market’s lineup in January were bonsai trees, wood sculptures, and a new crop of painters.

Several sculptors are completing preparations for display of large-scale works in the space’s floor-to-ceiling windows. And additional nighttime events are planned. The market will stay in operation for the time being, until someone signs a lease.

The Shaw Arts, Crafts and Fashion Market at 651 Florida Avenue, NW, presented by Shaw Main Streets and Art Rave DC, is now open three days per week — Friday and Saturday from 12 noon to 8 pm and Sunday from 12 noon to 6 pm. Admission is free.

For more information on the market and special events, visit www.shawmainstreets.org. For information on exhibiting at the market, visit www.districthousedc.com.

*The writer, a long-time resident of the Shaw neighborhood, is also the Executive Director of Shaw Main Streets.
Copyright © 2015 InTowner Publishing Corp. & Shaw Main Streets, Inc. All rights reserved.