A group of 30 Vermont artists have set up shop, at least for a while, alongside one corner of Winooski’s traffic circle. The Winooski Holiday Pop-Up Art Market, which opened last Saturday, is not just a chance to buy local for the holidays. It’s the debut of the Winooski Welcome Center, an initiative by former Winooski city councilor Jodi Harrington to inject some artistic and retail life into two formerly vacant street-front suites.
“Empty spaces are a blight, and it’s about removing the last blight in downtown Winooski and filling it with light and color,” said Harrington at the opening.
“Artists kind of see vacant space as an opportunity,” said pop-up organizer Ric Kasini Kadour. After working on last summer’s Pop-Up Gallery District, he teamed up with Harrington again to put art into some of Winooski’s vacant spaces.
At the opening, artists, their friends and others curious to see what was going on inside the brightest windows on the block congregated at the market. Nature as inspiration and recyclable materials were common themes, but there was a huge range — from Robert Gold’s vivid manipulated digital photos to Bike Recycle Vermont’s spoke bracelets and Eve Jacobs-Carnahan’s knitted veggies. The prices ranged from $5 to $500.
Harrington has become landlady of the large space, completed in 2007, after entering a five-year lease with Massachusetts-based owners HallKeen. To the artists taking part, it seemed worth it to pay rent for a limited period.
“Frankly, these are the months that people shop,” said Liza Cowan of the retail enterprise Small Equals, which specializes in keepsake boxes of Vermont pine with vintage-print covers. The owner of the defunct Pine Street Art Works explained that renting for just two months and working with people she trusts makes sense.
Chatting with friends in her display space, abstract painter Linda Maney noted, “I was interested in the opportunity, because I normally show in central Vermont.” Among her paintings on sale was “Goodnight Irene,” which was inspired by flood damage to her town of Roxbury following August’s devastating tropical storm.
Business started with a bang for at least one artist. “I sold an angel!” Westford-based artist Longina Smolinski happily announced to Harrington at the end of the opening night, referring to a piece in her new painting series. Subtle angels also adorned her glittering ornaments.
Harrington said the Holiday Pop-Up Art Market will serve as “market research” for her plan to see business flourish at that very spot. She explained that the first suite, a high-ceilinged space currently full of artwork and crafts, is slated to become a gallery. The smaller adjacent space, now filled with wholesale clothing and decorative lamp shades, will house the Winooski Welcome Center, which will help market the city — an idea Harrington conceived of a year ago. She described another future tenant of that space as a micro-business development center, where smaller-than-small businesses (such as many artists at the market) will contribute their collective energy and, for a fee, receive whatever they need to boost their endeavors. Harrington worked in micro-entrepreneur development in her previous marketing job at Opportunities Credit Union.
As part of the Winooski promotional push, Kadour’s Kasini House has teamed up with the Winooski Welcome Center to print a new publication, due out within the next few weeks. Kadour explained: “‘Discover Winooski’ is a quarterly pocket guide to the town that will list places to shop, places to dine out and other interesting, quirky, funky things to discover about Winooski. It’s a way to share Winooski with the rest of the world and encourage people to visit.” Harrington, who published the Winooski Eagle newspaper between 1993 and 2000, said the guide is a much-needed tool that will help finance the new center.
Winooski musician Antara Gatch, who played at the reception, put down her guitar to share her opinion on Winooski’s art scene. “There is a strong desire to bring forward this art experience in a more down-to-earth, less-upscale sort of way,” she said, “the way art kind of pops up and happens, regardless of what’s going on.”
The Holiday Pop-Up Art Market at the traffic circle in Winooski is open Wednesdays through Saturdays, noon to 8 p.m., and Sundays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., through December. winooskiwelcomecenter.com