Growing stronger

Art Mart kicks off third season at Southland

Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. will be a busy time on the property of the Southland Books. The third season of Art Mart will kick off with more than 20 artists/vendors and three bands.

Southland Books owner Lisa Misosky, Catherine Frye owner of Southern Studios Stained Glass, and Valerie Spence, owner of Detour Coffee, started the event three years ago as a way for the community to support local artists. The event happens periodically and gained a strong following from the public. Now the trio has handed the organizational duties for Art Mart over to Jennifer Hartley, a pre-school teacher and jewelry maker.

Hartley likes Art Mart on two levels. She enjoys organizing the event and what the event gives to the artists.

“I’m really excited,” said Hartley. “I hope lots of people come out from all over the community. There is going to be a lady doing clowning and balloons and face painting. I really appreciate a place to be able to sell the jewelry I make.”

Hartley thanked Misosky for being generous and giving artists a place to sell their work whenever Art Mart happens. “I wanted to help out and get it together for the rest of the artists,” she said. “I’m just hoping for good weather and a good turnout.”

Hartley is a pre-school teacher in the Oak Ridge City Schools who often teaches students from homes where Spanish is predominantly spoken. “We’ve even made Art Mart fliers in Spanish so we can draw from the Hispanic community,” she said.

Hartley said three bands are scheduled to perform: Slow Joe Crow, the Maryville Vineyard Band from Maryville Vineyard Church and instrumentalist Brad Hitch.

“Slow Joe Crow opened for Foreigner last year at the Foothills Fall Festival. My church’s band, Maryville Vineyard Band from Maryville Vineyard Church, is going to perform,” she said. “Brad Hitch plays any instrument you could imagine. He’s going to be doing his own thing for an hour, playing different instruments.”

Misosky said this is the third season of Art Mart and the number of events each year has fluctuated. “The first year, we did it four or five times and last season we tried to do it more often,” said Misosky. “That didn’t work as well because of the economy. Overall, it’s largely driven by the artists participation, and the public’s willingness to support local art.”

Hartley said the event should be a lot of fun for everyone involved. “I hope people come out and support local artists,” she said. “We hope to have two Art Marts this year.”

Misosky for this Art Mart event they anticipate between 22 and 25 artists, plus the three bands.

The Southland Books owner said they’ve worked hard to maintain a consistently good level of quality with the participating artists. “We’ve been fortunate to have returning participants and picked up several new people and have been very fortunate to have Jen take over and coordinate it,” she said. “Jen Hartley has been a blessing.”

Misosky said the goal she and Catherine Frye had when they started Art Mart was for artists to take it over and have it as an artist-driven event. “Thankfully with our third season, that’s what has happened,” she said.

Misosky said it was Hartley’s idea to try to bring the event from the back lawn, to the front parking lot as well as on half of East Street that runs beside the store between East Harper Avenue and East Broadway Avenue. “We got a parade permit from city. Capt. David Graves was nice about working with us,” Misosky said. “They’re going to block off half East Street, and we’ll have artists set up on the street and also have artists in back with the music.”

With events like Last Friday Art Walk and Art Mart, art has become more popular in Blount County in recent years and people appear to be supporting the area artists, according to Misosky.

“We started Art Mart before they started Art Walk and a lot of the people who started Art Walk originally were early participants of Art Mart. They decided they wanted to do a larger scale, more regular production,” Misosky said.

Spence said she’s watched the event grow and change. “It’s bigger than it has ever been and there is a lot of enthusiasm this season. We’re very excited about it. It will be a record number of participants this time,” Spence said.

Spence said judging from the strong response to Last Friday Art Walk and Art Mart, people are becoming more interested in creativeness. It also helps that warmer weather is coming. “I think it’s the right season. People are ready to get out and see what going on,” she said.

Spence said as the event has gotten bigger, more people are taking local artists seriously.

“They are excited and see it as more beneficial to them,” she said.

Misosky said it is always fun to be part of a new event as she was when Art Mart started three years ago. Now the event is starting to mature. “It’s even nicer to be part of an event that has taken on a life of its own,” she said. “It’s nice to see your ‘baby’ walk, crawl and then start to run.”

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