This Saturday I will be celebrating the anniversary of my event, First Saturday Arts Market (FSAM). There will a couple of food trucks, wine and more than three dozen fine artists that were juried into the show by their peers.
With literally hundreds of activities available to Houstonians every weekend, it is quite an honor to say I started this event 16 years ago this very Saturday.
Houstonians had a vastly different array of options for weekend events 16 years ago. In the Heights that weekend, there was the Houston Farmers Market, less than a year old, and a Celtic Festival at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church on Sunday. There was only one craft brewery in Houston, Saint Arnold Brewing Company, and the tours were still free! (The brewery began hosting tours June 11, 1994, and didn’t begin charging $5 until April 1, 2006.)
How about a reverse interview with me? I asked friends what they’d like answered about the art market. Grab a beverage, this is a fun one!
Darnell Allen asked, “How did I come up with the idea?”
Mitch Cohen: “I had been organizing ‘art crawls’ at the shops in the neighborhood for a marketing campaign we called Heights 1st Saturday for about six months when one of the artists as I recall asked why not set up a monthly festival so the artists could gather in one space. I literally ran with that idea.”
Martin de Vore: Who is still with FSAM that was also there at your first market and has been there in all the years since?
MC: Liz Conces Spencer, currently showing at Archway Gallery, was there. I remember how proud I was to have a bona fide fine artist in the mix of mostly crafters. Amy Lynch Kolflat was at that first market with her Zebra-painted art car and today she is a media sponsor of the market. Ronnie Queenan, whom I’ve interviewed here, was in attendance, too.”
Jacqueline Altobelli: What has been your favorite purchase at the market?
MC: “Is this a trick question? I commissioned Dean Snider to create a painting for the 10th anniversary. It hung at our host store, Gen’s Antiques, until last year when the store closed and I brought the painting home. Though it’s 6 years old, I see something new in this piece every day. It is a 3-foot square 3-D board game of the art market. Another was a painting by Vivian Mora of a red Schwinn bicycle that I happen to own, that belonged to my father before I was born!”
Lisa Hilton: Why do you choose to showcase original musicians? Because I love that so much.
MC: “Houston has such a deep pool of talent. It only makes sense to me that if everything else about the market is original, so too should be the music.”
Allison Fox: What is the biggest challenge you encounter running the market?
MC: “Myself. Though I jokingly call myself a ‘cat herder,’ it all starts with my attitude. I believe that I set the tone for the day and whatever mood I bring, it’s certainly going to spread like wildfire.”
Craig Butterworth: What was the craziest outfit ever?
MC: “That’s easy. An abstract artist and the market’s first volunteer, Michelle Macy. She attends almost always in costume.”
Macy added: “I’ll never forget the time I first met jeweler Steve Sellers. My friend Myra and I were totally decked out in St. Patrick’s attire from head to toe. Steve asked if we lost the bet when he saw us.”
Cherie Kelly Salinas: What do you enjoy the most about putting on FSAM?
MC: “Watching people leaving with big grins and newly acquired art.”
Laura Simoneaux: What are some of the most outlandish/crazy things you’ve seen artists or patrons do at your market?
MC: “The first time I saw Phil Brayton, aka The Tan Man, I definitely did a double-take. Brayton, now a good friend to many of the artists and a Houston icon in his own right, is a 6-foot-5 giant of a man strolling around the market in his signature seasonally colored blazer over his bare chest. There’s another regular patron (and friend now, too) that could pass for Merlin the Magician.
“Then there was the older man that rode in on his converted ice chest go-kart right out of a ’60s beach party movie. He stopped for a moment, took a beer out of the ice chest he was sitting on, popped the top and rode on.”
Lyn Hunter: What’s the secret to not being a “starving artist?”
MC: “Keep your day job!”
Michelle Hickman: How do you choose the artists and get the word out?
MC: “Artist applications are reviewed and approved by exhibiting artists. With so many artists that attend the markets, they are my best source to get the word out. Word of mouth!”
Martin Hajovsky: How many flowers did you sell at the first Yale Street Art and Flowers market?
MC: “At the time I was determined to have flower vendors at the market thinking that would be a big draw for the public. Saturdays are the big money day for florists so I got my own license and proceeded to overbuy dozens of flowers each month from that first Saturday market through Mother’s Day weekend. I gave away nearly every flower I bought. I was very popular with mothers and at area retirement homes.”
First Saturday Arts Market is located at 530 W. 19th St. 77008 and open 11 a.m – 6 p.m. Established in 2004, the market is an open-air, monthly fine arts event that also features local musicians, food trucks and wine. Find more on the website, www.1stSatArtMarket.com.
Cohen is an artist and founder of First Saturday Arts Market and the Market at Sawyer Yards. Find him at ArtValet.com.