A couple of years ago when my fiancé and I were first dating, I took her to the Drag. We ate at Dirty Martin’s and went for a walk. Coming across the 23rd St. Artists’ Market, we perused the booths and went about our day’s adventures. Little did I know, we had actually come across an Austin institution as time honored as Eeyore’s Birthday and Barton Springs Pool.
23rd St. Artists’ Market was founded way back in 1972 after a citywide vote in 1971 led to a referendum establishing the market. In 1976, vendors were restricted to selling only handmade crafts by local artists, and the market hasn’t been moved or changed since.
This past weekend, my fiancé and I returned to 23rd St. Artists’ Market to check things out. The market is nestled in a little alcove between 23rd and 24th St. on Guadalupe. Due to its proximity to the university, parking can be tricky sometimes, especially when classes are in session. This time we were lucky and found a half empty parking lot near the 23rd St. Artists’ Market area, and UT’s San Antonio Garage is also available nearby.
The market is in an open area flanked by murals by local artists like Kerry Awn, painted on the sides of neighboring buildings. The murals definitely nurture an atmosphere of creativity.
So what exactly can a person find at 23rd St. Artists’ Market? The answer is as varied as the artists themselves. One of the vendors, Elsa, sold really cool handmade t-shirts with an Austin theme. Another vendor was selling one of a kind, handcrafted jewelry. Others sold paintings and handbags. The wares are as eclectic as the city itself.
Chad Mote was another vendor with products for sale. He makes homemade sandals called Hammachas. Chad clued me in on them, “The soles are made from cork; the padding is yoga mat foam; the bottoms of the sandal are from recycled tires; it’s covered in bison leather and the strings are parachute cord.” Wow. They looked pretty cool. Chad is by far the newest artist to 23rd St. “I’ve only been here a week and a half. But it’s cheaper than other venues and the exposure to foot traffic is amazing.”
Some vendors have been at the Market for thirty+ years, but not all of them are at the Market all the time. The market is open seven days a week from 10 AM to sunset, but a vendor may choose not to open shop for some reason or another. This makes every visit interesting. You never know what you’ll get when you go.
How to Participate
Perhaps you aren’t looking to buy custom made goods and art. Perhaps you are looking to sell them, but you have a problem establishing a location to sell your wares. If so, you should check out the 23rd St. Artists’ Market website. Licenses are sold on a yearly basis with a discounted price for the first year. Prices vary, so it’s best to directly contact the powers that be for details.
If you want to support local artists, check out 23rd Street Artists’ Market any day of the week, between 10 AM and dusk. If you’re a local artist looking to expand your business, 23rd St. Artists’ Market may be what you’re looking for.
Have you ever been to 23rd St. Artists’ Market? What’s your take on it?