This holiday season, the Memphis Arts Collective will be celebrating its 17th year as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and its members will also be celebrating 30 years as an active independent holiday artist market. What began in 1993 as a two-weekend holiday show is now a month-long artist market store with over 30 collective members and non-member vendors.
Members of the Collective have often joked that, “We were a pop-up before pop-ups were a thing!” The entrepreneurial spirit began in the early nineties when a group of artists started selling their handmade art and wares in the lawn area next to the former Burke’s Books location at the corner of Evergreen and Poplar Ave. near the Evergreen Theater (formerly Circuit Playhouse). Longtime members Jennifer Hyatt, Angi Cooper, and Don Blalock participated in the monthly Saturday artist markets along with other local artists in what became an established venue for local creatives to show their work. Jewelry maker Anne Guerin was the first organizer of the new group, the Midtown Artist Market, which included artists and makers of ceramics, metal art, tie dye, jewelry, pottery, gemstones and crystals, polymer clay, paintings, collage, glass work, mobiles, and fiber arts.
After the last seasonal monthly market ended in October of 1993, enthusiasm was high to
continue the venture for the holiday season, so a building had to be found. Anne acquired space for artists n the former Garbo’s shop on Madison in Overton Square. The first MAM Holiday Artist Market was born with a two-weekend stint including Thanksgiving weekend and the second Saturday of December. Some of the participating artists included: Ben Brewer, Anne Guerin, Frank “Preacher Man” Boyle, Joyce McKibben, Jennifer Hyatt, Paul Tracy, Alissa Botto, Steve and Lisa Hudson, Angi Cooper, Don Blalock, Jim Krog, Karen Edge, and Fawn and Tino Van Der Vyver.
The monthly Saturday markets continued in 1994, as did the next holiday market which ran for two weekends in the former Seabrook’s building at 201 S. Cooper St. just south of Union Ave. The bug really bit, as this was the first official artist market “store” with a central check-out station. It was a cozy little space with a large front room, a smaller back room and a section upstairs. Don Blalock was the first store manager running the operation for about 18 vendors.
The holiday artist market store concept continued in 1995 for two weeks at the former Ciao’s restaurant (now Bosco’s) in Overton Square. With each new show space, the artists learned to adapt their booth set-up. This particular locale included a central bar area for vendors who had a smaller set-up and could utilize the bar space for their display. It was also the first space involving several rooms making for a unique boutique-like environment for artist made goods. Most artists attended their booths on the weekends and the creative comradery was joyful. The MAM markets continued in this space through 1998 with Anne Guerin as store manager. Some of the artists who began showing at this location included jewelers Rene Nickel and Linda Wilson, raku artist Lester Jones, and ceramic artists Crazy Like The Moon Studio.
1999 brought in an era of different locations for the annual holiday show including 3 years above Palm Court (the old ice-skating rink) in Overton Square (1999-2001). Kalki and Wendi Winter took over as store managers with the new Palm Court locale which also brought in new vendors Tatia Johnson, Nicola Tupis, Feefifibby and Chuck Parr’s Retro.
Early aughts locations included 1819 Madison, formerly the Vine, (2002); a two-story downtown location on Main St. (2003); 3456 Poplar Plaza (2004); and 552 S. Main (2005).
2006 was the first year of the holiday market as the new members 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization the Memphis Arts Collective. Chuck Parr and Candace Jefferies worked with an attorney on setting up the by-laws for the new nonprofit that also included an executive board consisting of President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer positions which are voted on by members. There are also 4 different committees for member participation. Member Alisa Botto created the first logo for the organization. Botto and fellow member Lizi Beard-Ward also created the different postcard and poster art for the first Collective events.
The Memphis Arts Collective’s 2006 Holiday Artist Market was in the back half of 2151 Central Ave. (now Urban Outfitters). As a collective, most show vendors were dues-paying members who were dedicated to keeping local opportunities available for artists and craftspeople to sell heir work in these annual events. The group also chose a local non-profit charity to benefit from the annual market, which coincided with the collective’s mission statement of “supporting the creative endeavors of Memphis and Mid- South artists and craftsmen and to engage them in helping others in our community. The Memphis Arts Collective believes a city with an active and involved art & craft community provides a higher quality of life in that city for all its residents.”
In 2007, the Collective had the front side of 2151 Central for the holiday market and in 2008 they occupied the former Memphis Humane Society building across the street at 2238 Central.
For the next 9 years, the Memphis Arts Collective’s annual holiday market held court at 1501 Union Ave. in the heart of midtown Memphis. Chuck Parr and Rene Nickel were co-managers of the holiday market which became a dedicated space for thirty vendors and Black Friday opening night parties with a bounty of food and live musical entertainment. Aisles would be packed with artists, patrons, and their families as the holiday artist market got kicked off with its opening night silent auction to benefit the sponsored charity. Sponsored charities over the years have included: New Ballet Ensemble, MIFA, The National Foundation for Transplants, Central HS Band, Friends for Life, Alzheimer’s Day Services of Memphis, Mewtopia Cat Rescue, Stax Music Academy, Door of Hope, CASA, Caritas Village, Church Health Center, Vance Ave. Youth Development Center, Mid-South Food Bank, and Thrive Memphis. Other traditions started on Union were the annual mid-December Saturday Solstice Party with refreshments and live music and store hours until 9 pm, and the Sunday afternoon artist demonstrations from participating vendors.
As part of the Collective’s community outreach, MAC also began exhibiting member group shows at the Pink Palace Crafts Fair, Circuit Playhouse, the Cooper-Young Festival, the Jewish Community Center, and the Olive Branch MayFest. Additionally, the Collective performed community outreach at the annual Overton Square Crawfish Festival with a children’s art-making tent, as well as children’s art-making opportunities at Rhodes College and Sea Isle Park festivals.
Valentine, spring and summer shows opened up more opportunities for members at the Crosstown Arts space at 430 N. Cleveland and in the newly opened Crosstown Concourse, which became the holiday market space for 2018. That year, the Collective had two large store spaces for over two dozen vendors. The Concourse was also a new opportunity for the collective to receive regular daily walk-in traffic helping the group to build up its patron base with new customers. This market also featured a new logo for the Collective designed by member Angi Cooper.
Another venue that MAC members established a steady presence at was the V & Artwalk in the Vollintine-Evergreen neighborhood. The Collective is still a sponsor of the festival where member work is showcased in a group booth and several participating members are featured in their own booths throughout the venue.
2019 saw the Collective in a new residence further east at 3484 Poplar Ave. at the corner of Poplar and Highland Ave. The new locale was huge! Formerly Spin Street Records, there was ample room for all the vendors, silent auction tables, refreshment area, an entryway for festive holiday decorating, a large front check-out area, and even a stage for Solstice Party musicians.
As the Covid-19 pandemic made its way into 2020, communication remained open within the group about hosting a 2020 market and about safety protocols for that market. With the market confirmed, MAC created a new safety committee to help the group follow all CDC guidelines for the store with masking in place and social distancing markers at the check-out station. Hand sanitizer was provided around the store space and masks were provided for customers who did not have one. Although there was no opening night party with food and refreshments, it was the first time the store was open during the day on Black Friday. Customers had been requesting daytime shopping hours on the busy shopping day and the collective listened. It was also the first time the promotional postcard design was repeated, except this time mixed media artist Angi Cooper put masks on the holiday deer. It was a great way to let their customer base know that the market was indeed happening and to wear a mask when shopping.
2021 brought another market with Covid-19 guidelines. Jewelry artist and graphic designer Shannon Maltby created a fresh promotional postcard design with a dove holding mistletoe in its beak with winter colors of white, blue, and green. For the 3rd year on the corner of Poplar and Highland, MAC continued to expand their customer base with new QR code sign-ups, regular social media presence, and best daily and total sales to date. New vendors included Combustion Ceramics, Eric Echols, Aundra McCoy, Rebecca Chappell, Chris Farris, and Sara Schulman. There were plenty of mediums for holiday shoppers to explore: local photography, handmade jewelry (metal, polymer clay, leather, vintage beads, collage, handmade glass, semi-precious stones), pottery, mosaics, paintings, metalwork, handmade candles and soaps, ceramics, fiber art and textiles, print media, upcycled art, stained glass, mixed media and collage, and lots of holiday ornaments showcased on the new ornament wall!
The 2022 roster includes 32 members who are also individually active within the community exhibiting in a variety of artist markets, teaching workshops, gallery shows, and boutiques. Members are: AGinn Elements, Angi Cooper, Cat Snyder, Chuck’s Retro, Cindy Uphoff, Combustion Ceramics, Don Blalock, Enchanted Soaps by Nancy Lee, Eric Echols, Feefifibby, Flying Free Pottery, Gwynevere Jewelry, Jan Shively, Jennifer Hyatt Metal Art, Jennifer Williams, Leigh Anne Sandlin, Leslie Tubbs-Tiscia, low rent greetings, Marjorie’s Originals, Midtown Glassworks, MLC Mosaics, MLC Pottery, Nicola Tupis, Peace Bee Farm, Pettijohn Textiles, Rebecca Chappell, Rix Wood Wurx, Sarah Terry, Sherry Robinson Designs, Snow Lake Pottery, Solstice Studios, The Hammered Pear, and Vintagia by Jana Wilson. Non-member vendors are: Robert McCarroll and Tracey Yarbro.
For the 4th consecutive year, MAC is back at 3484 Poplar Ave. at Poplar and Highland for their annual holiday market from Nov. 25-Dec. 24. Daily hours are Mon-Sat 10:30 am-6:30 pm, Sun noon-5 pm and 10:30 am-4:30 pm on Dec. 24.
Holiday shoppers will be able to enjoy extended hours on opening day--Black Friday—from 10:30 am-8 pm and there will be live music from 6 pm-8 pm with refreshments. Come out and help the Memphis Arts Collective kick off this year’s holiday show and celebrate 30 years as an independent artist market benefitting local makers!