NORTH TONAWANDA – Once a month and for the second time this season, the former Ascension Church is coming to life in a special way, as the home of a burgeoning artists’ marketplace.
What is being called Makers Market, which began in May, will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the second Saturday of June and July, filling the former sanctuary at 168 Robinson St. The next one is this Saturday.
Natalie Brown, owner of Project 308 Gallery on Oliver Street, said she came up with the idea for Makers Market as a way to feature local art, food, crafts and music. More than 40 vendors are participating.
Brown said the first Makers Market in May was very successful, drawing more than 200 people. But this isn’t the first time that 168 Robinson has hosted an artists market. The church site also was used for the Holiday Trunk Show in December, which featured gifts for the holidays.
“That started small, with about 15 artists. I used to have it at the gallery,” Brown said of the trunk show. “My family bought the church, and it came just in time for the holidays and the trunk show, and we decided to get more vendors. That worked out great, and we decided to try and do a couple of summer markets.”
Brown said that in August, she plans to move out of the church and onto Oliver Street for an outdoor art festival. No date has been set.
She said that the first outdoor art festival was held last year but that the Makers Market has been a nice alternative because they are not at the mercy of the weather.
Vendors have been happy with the turnout, Brown said.
The Makers Market is designed to promote quality local art. “It’s only local artists, no national vendors,” Brown said. “It has to be handmade, hand-crafted or even antiques, but is has to be locally made or sold.” Referring to the May vendors, she said, “We had a lot of jewelry, woodwork, garden decorations, cupcakes and wine tasting,” adding, “For June and July, we would like to get more food vendors.”
Artists also have offered crocheted crafts, hand-painted lighthouses, photography, kitchenware, cork crafts, olive oil, paintings, hand-painted wine glasses and decorative wine bottles.
“I try to keep the level of skill elevated,” Brown said of the participating vendors. “Sometimes we pick more crafty artists, but I try to pick stuff that I would want to buy.”
Brown said she has asked artists she knows to be part of the show, but also gets a lot of people contacting her unsolicited.
“I think any community can use a nice artists’ market. It’s a nice way to get out of the house and luckily we have the farmers market from right down the street on Robinson. I am hoping people will make a whole day of it,” Brown said.
She added, “Everyone has been real excited. Some of the people who came used to be part of that church and are excited to come back and hang out and see how we are doing. We have totally restored the church and are painting it.
“It needed paint and new plaster work – all the stuff that had been ignored over the years.'
More information on the Makers Market and participating vendors is available at project308gallery.com/monthly-makers-market.