From customers being pepper sprayed while fighting for stocking stuffers to being shot over parking spaces, multiple injuries are reported during Black Friday shopping every year. Luckily, Austinites can dodge this purge because it has an active community bursting with small time vendors and artists. The Blue Genie Art Bazaar makes it easy to purchase wonderful handcrafted gifts while simultaneously staying safe.
The Art Bazaar started in 2001 when Blue Genie Art Industries, known for their large commercial sculptures — the Torchy’s Tacos baby devil and Mueller’s Loch Ness Monster — decided to host an employee-based art show in their studio. Since then, the Art Bazaar has grown to host over 200 artists and thousands of patrons every year between Black Friday until Christmas Eve.
“We liked to have a party and we liked to show some art, but we were totally shocked when people bought things,” Blue Genie co-founder Dana Younger said. “I think that was the genesis of our understanding of why (the Art Bazaar is) important for us, the artist and the community because it’s a nexus of art, and commerce and community that we really like, and people in Austin really like.”
This year will be Blue Genie’s second exhibition at 6100 Airport Blvd., right across from ACC Highland. The move from the Marchesa Hall, now occupied by the Austin Film Society Cinema, to their current location was a tough one for the Art Bazaar. Despite this, Younger looks on the bright side, suggesting that the large space may be used for a plethora of community art events and exhibitions.
“I have lived in a town where local art wasn’t supported, and it was a sad place to be,” said Joy Noguess, owner of Tiny Happy Clay which makes handmade ceramics that feature Texas themes. “Small businesses, especially creative ones, make for such a vibrant community.”
To many local artists, the community provided is essential to the continuity of their work.
“The show itself is full of interesting, local art that you don’t necessarily see at a lot of art fares,” said Katy David, a first-time vendor at the Art Bazaar. “These are local artists that you can actually see walking down the street or have coffee with.”
After almost two decades, Younger expresses the importance of rejuvenating the Art Bazaar with budding artists and alluring crafts.
“Freshness is really important to us and to our show, we tend to get 10 to 15 percent minimum of new artists,” Younger said. “That’s a real opportunity for us to pick new things, to see new trends that are happening in art, gifts, and crafts.”
Currently, Younger and his team are transforming their warehouse into a full-fledged holiday bodega, construction exhibition walls and moving in vendors over the next week. Shoppers will find items from photos and prints to locally crafted jewelry and handbags. But most importantly, the Art Bazaar supports a tight-knit neighborhood of creators that make Austin unique.
“I like this art show because the people who run it are artists,” David said. “You’re allowing artist to live and work in Austin which can only contribute to the quality of life for everybody.”