Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Artegon Grand Opening opened my eyes to the creative potential of this new market.

I went to the grand opening of Artegon at the north end of International Drive across from the Outlet Stores. Retail spaces are being made available to artists and artisans to sell their wares for as little as $6 a day. As an artist, this prospect of getting my work to be viewed by tourists is an exciting option. All the market spaces are surrounded by wire fencing. When I toured the empty space, with little light it reminded me of an asylum. The grand opening however changed my perspective.

165 artist booths and stores offer an amazing variety of art and crafts. I was surprised to see The Daily City had rented a prime space near the cinema. I talked to Mark Baratelli who is using the space as his office and a permanent Pop Up Shop.  He had art by local artist Boy Kong and he pointed out some metal elephants that he had an artist make. The woman next to me remarked that they would make nice stocking holders for Christmas. Mark loved the idea. The elephant's trunk made a nice hook and the sculptures were heavy enough to support a stocking stuffed with gifts.

What has kept me from renting a space is the fact that I don't want to commit so much time to staying in a retail space. I might be called to do a sketch at any time of the day and since I work on location, I'd have to leave shop. I told Mark about my idea of buying a used vending machine to dispense post card sketches. The problem with the vending machine is that I would still have to open shop in the morning and close shop at night. We also spoke about the possibility of my setting up a card display in the Daily City Shop. This might be a good way for me to at least dip my toe in.

I was enthralled by the place. A large rope, sky maze was set up in the central hub of the market. Occasionally people could be heard screaming as they zip lined across the divide. Better still an enterprising vendor was renting out motorized plush puppies which an adult or child could ride around the market. Two puppies pretended to crash into each other at their very tame speed, and the two riders spilled off in slow motion to the floor. A stilt walker walked over and inquired if they were OK. They laughed and got back on. A balloon artist had life sized balloon sculptures scattered among several vendors. A soap shop had a balloon woman taking a balloon bubble bath. Stilt walkers stood behind me and watched the sketch evolve. I found it funny that they were trying to see from that great height.

Houck Talent had brought in the stilt walkers and African Acrobats for the grand opening. I sketched the acrobats as they did their routine. They  created a human pyramid with a flourish and then one acrobat stacked chairs until he could almost touch the ceiling with his toes when he did a handstand. A sizable crowd clapped and whooped. It is almost impossible to see every artists booth. I got lost finding myself distracted by unexpected wares and bright colors at every turn. Not every booth was occupied, so it seems that there are still opportunities for local artists to make this space their own. I decided not to look at every artist booth. I decided I wanted to share this shopping experience with my wife. If the Artegon Market maintains this level of excitement moving forward it will certainly prove to be a required shopping destination this holiday season.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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