Art Garden KC grows its local maker market from a weekly pop-up to a community resource
Since 2021, Art Garden KC has brought together Kansas City artists every Sunday to share their crafts. Their annual holiday Merry Market will run weekends at City Market from Black Friday until Christmas.
While unpredictable Midwest weather canceled the outdoor finale of Art Garden KC’s season last weekend at the Berkley Riverfront, the spirit of the maker market will pop up again soon with an indoor event in the Crossroads.
Art Garden KC’s Beggars Bazaar — set for 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday Nov. 3 — returns to the Beggars Table, 2010 Baltimore Ave., for First Friday. The open and inclusive church/gallery space is committed to supporting local arts, organizers said, making room for a number of Kansas City artists and makers.
Art Garden KC, a grassroots, artist-led collective, organizes affordable, low barrier pop-up markets and festivals in Kansas City with the mission to create equal economic opportunity for local creative entrepreneurs while hosting engaging, community-centric events in safe, inclusive spaces for creative expression and collaboration.
It was set to close its third season — typically spanning April to October at Berkley Riverfront Park — last weekend with Halloween on the Riverfront, but the Sunday event was canceled because of recent prolonged rain and cold weather at the venue.
More shopping opportunities are set to return on Black Friday, when Art Garden KC’s Merry Market opens at City Market. The holiday-focused event series runs weekends, Thanksgiving through Christmas.
Since 2021, Art Garden KC has brought together Kansas City artists every Sunday to build community and share their creations. Like many ventures popping up in the past few years, the effort was born amid new pandemic-era perspectives.
Bethany Alzandi, the founder of Art Garden KC, had just moved into the Pendelton Arts Block in Kansas City’s Northeast, an apartment community with a preference for artists and creatives in Pendelton Heights, with her husband Mustafa right before COVID-19 hit Kansas City.
Alzandi saw the need for a place for artists to come together more than ever, especially as COVID put a stop to all in person events in the community.
“You had a lot of great people and great artists that had moved in that were ready to start creating and collaborating and building some community programming in the Northeast area,” Alzanadi said.
“I feel like a lot of artists weren’t working or vending or showing their art throughout COVID,” she continued. “We felt that mental health had declined in the building we lived in, and substance abuse had gone up. So, we imagined that was something people were facing community wide.”
A year later, in spring 2021, Bethany and Mustafa organized their first event: a gathering of five artists in a field, coming together to share their crafts.
“We found an area across from our local coffee shop that was an outdoor space and chose to do something every Sunday. It was accessible for families, the after-church crowd, and a day when not much else was going on,” Alzanadi said. “We just started inviting artists from all over the city to come join us and hang out on Sundays.”
The Sunday meetups organically grew into an art market and received plenty of feedback from the community. They added spaces for other creatives to showcase their crafts, including an open mic and group yoga practice.
No imposters here
As its fiscal agent, Troost Market Collective allows Art Garden KC to keep its booth fees for vendors low — at just $10, Alzanadi said. Compared to other markets that might charge $150 to $500 in booth fees, this allows artists who are just starting out or have limited financial resources to participate in their festivals.
Art Garden KC also provides local artists a place to build community and confidence, in addition to a venue to showcase and sell their work.
“We had artists coming up and with tears in their eyes, saying, ‘Thank you so much. I made $300 today,’” Alzanadi said. “My husband and I looked at each other and said, ‘OK, we’ve got something here. There’s a need for this. The community supports it. Let’s start getting organized.’”
In the next year, Alzanadi said, she hopes to expand Art Garden KC by offering Vendor 101 classes to teach artists how to sell their work in markets and galleries.
Alzandi has come far, she said — initially feeling like an imposter trying to break into the art scene when she first moved to Kansas City. Now, she’s inviting artists from across the city to hang out with her on Sundays.
“When you lower the booth fees, and you don’t tell people their art isn’t good enough to get in, it takes away that competitive nature,” Alzanadi said. “It takes away that fear and anxiety that most artists would feel when entering an art market or a gallery.”