The First Saturday Arts Market opened to the public 15 years ago as Yale Street Arts & Flower Market. There are some special features to mark the anniversary at this Saturday’s market, open from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. at 530 W. 19th St.
Falacos Food Truck will be on site serving lunch, and Chocolate Wasted Ice Cream Co. will have a dessert cart. Performances include singer/songwriting duo Mark Marmon and Paul Boedeker opening the market at 11 a.m. At 3 p.m., Wendy Elizabeth Jones will host Jimmy Lee Deen, David O’Dea, Chaz Nadege and David and Alyson Fahl.
To further commemorate the milestone, I’ve compiled a list of 15 fun memories and tidbits from over the years.
The market was first located behind Kaplan’s Ben Hur, a department store at 2200 Yale St. The market logo was a purple flower handpainted by me.
- The first market only had a dozen artists, but more than 1,000 people came to check us out.
- By June, word was out and more than 60 artists signed up for the market. The oppressive summer heat kept the crowds away, though.
- Martin Kaplan, the owner of Kaplan’s Ben Hur, is a humble man with a dry sense of humor. He could look quite serious in his daily attire of suit and tie, and he knew it. One day he walked up to a group of artists drinking beer and very officially admonished, “You know you aren’t supposed to be drinking alcohol on this property!” He waited a few minutes for effect before laughing it off.
- The first summer was probably our hottest. Artists put ice packs on their heads and under hats to stay cool.
- The first rainout, I canceled before the rain started. Several artists insisted we set up and argued with me while a massive storm blackened the sky behind me. The market area was under water a few minutes later.
- Coldest day: It was a December a few years ago. By the time we opened the temperature was the same as attendance, about 14. Shoppers came and the artists reported having the best sales up to that point!
- In the beginning, I got a floral license and bought flowers to resell at the market when no flower vendors would come out on a Saturday. They never sold and I ended up a failure as a florist. I was not upset.
- After the first market we took a van-load of unsold flowers to Heights Tower on 19th Street. Finding no one to ask permission, I dropped a big container of flowers in the near-empty lobby. Returning with the second load mere moments later, all the flowers were now in the laps of half a dozen wheelchair-bound tenants. Several more containers later, there were many happy tenants with lots of flowers. The next month we delivered flowers to all the mothers in our lives for Mother’s Day. By May, we were out of the flower business.
- I bought a keg of beer to celebrate our first anniversary. Two men, one a bored husband and the other a rambunctious artist, wanted to tap the keg early, well before noon. I said yes if they could open it. Two or three hours later, both exhausted and having failed at their mission, they watched in abject horror as a small-framed woman stepped up ignoring the tools the guys had used in their failed attempts. She tapped the keg in two easy steps by hand and poured herself a beer.
- An actress friend volunteered to wear a Victorian rabbit costume from her theater to steer drivers on Yale Street into the market. The market was hidden behind a building at the first location. She came back disgruntled and upset from all the whistles and catcalling she got instead.
- When Gen’s Antiques was our host store, we estimated crowd attendance by toilet paper count at the end of the day. Forty-eight rolls was a 4,000-plus day.
- Kicking groups out. Twice in the same day, we escorted out a religious group that marched through Gen’s Antiques with drums and tambourines giving their own impromptu performance and then through the market, even in front of the band. Another time a communist political group was asked to leave the store. Then later I asked them to leave the market area as well, but Mother Nature stepped in for me and dropped buckets of rain on them.
- Folk artist Kiki Neumann shared a great memory: “Mitch found me selling birdhouses and garden items from cast-off wood fences on the curb of White Oak Boulevard. I wasn’t making very much money, but it was a beautiful day in the Heights. He drove by and then came back to ask if I would consider being at (the) show. ‘What? Where? You bet!’ Because of (Cohen), I found my people! (He) took me off the streets quite literally.”
- Today the market is curated by the artists and all who’ve attended can be viewed on the website, FirstSaturdayArtsMarket.com, going back four years.
Photos of the art market in 2019
Cohen is an artist and founder of First Saturday Arts Market and the Market at Sawyer Yards. Find him at ArtValet.com.