by Gena Anderson
As a girl who grew up right off the Gulf Coast in Pensacola, FL., summertime to me means living in your swimsuit, community fish fries and a myriad of art fairs, gallery nights, and the resurgence of street performers. Needless to say, moving to central Illinois was a bit of a culture shock. Besides the general oddness of a world fueled by corn, and accepting the fact that I now have to constantly correct my friends when they say I live in Chicago (because that's the only city in Illinois, obviously) - I had to figure out what I would do with my summer Saturdays.
When Shannon Cox, Event Coordinator of the Speakeasy Art Center, first told me about the Art Market she was organizing- I was elated at the possibility of having a local community market to attend! Even though I work rather closely with the Speakeasy Art Center- I really wasn't a part of this project and didn't quite know what to expect. Would it be everything my little heart dreamed of, or be a complete and utter disappointment? Though I'm loving living here, coming from a city you could easily confuse with paradise if you never left downtown with it's solid artist community, I'm hard to impress.
So, I went. I figured with a start time of 10:00 am, I wouldn't have to wake up any early than usual to arrive early enough to have the best selection of goodies to choose from!
See I have a problem - I live for consuming well price art. It's one-part love of the arts and one-part constant awareness that I have student loans to repay. From my experience, street markets are the place to fall in love with art because it's typically affordable on a private liberal arts college graduate's budget (translation: not starving, but still primarily eating meals that cost less than $2 to make).
I have to admit though, I passed it on my first attempt to get there. Located on Pekin's downtown river front, the Art Market is nestled a little bit away from the street- which is perfect for kids, but kind of confusing for people who aren't entirely familiar with the area. After circling the block, I finally pulled in to an area that I was surprised to find had plenty of parking, and designated crosswalks.
There were several vendors selling crafts, photography, jewelry, handmade toys, essential oils, and more. I am personally a fan of scoping out the entire selection of goods before making a purchase (see: student loan debt), and unlike a lot of other markets I had been to, all of the vendors we're very polite and engaging without pressuring me into buying anything. There were fewer vendors than I had originally hoped, but considering it this is the first summer where Pekin has an Art Market, I have high hopes that it will grow and attract different farmers, crafters, upcyclers and more from Pekin and the surrounding area's. The location couldn't be more perfect for families, either. Located right between the water spouts and a playground there are plenty of opportunities for children to play while their parent's sit by and watch or join in the games with them. Add live music, the Kindermusik demonstration activity, face painting, kid friendly crafts, and a relatively dog friendly space to create the perfect Saturday morning family outing.
I was also a big fan of the fact that there was food on site, and plenty of seating and shade to enjoy it in. Overall I would say the Art Market has a lot of potential to be a good thing for Pekin as a whole.
Some tips for making the most of your Art Market experience:
-Bring cash. Most vendors did not have the ability to accept cards.
-Be aware of the sun. Sunscreen and a floppy hat are your best friend.
-Be swimsuit ready. A ton of kids were playing in the water- yours will probably want to as well.
-Be willing to chat. I learned a lot about upcoming events, local businesses, and artists just by talking to people.
-Be proud of yourself. Buying local keeps money in your community and that's always a good thing.
The season is almost over and I highly encourage you to check it out before you run out of time. The Art Market takes place on Saturdays from 10:00 am - 1:00 pm. If you see me down there, please feel free to say hello! I always love meeting new people and getting recommendations for what to add to my central Illinois "must have adventures" list.