Thursday, July 2, 2015

Artegon then and now.


Artegon is an artist market set up in the former Festival Bay Mall. Festival Bay had only a few merchants who were long term, one was the Bass Pro Shops, Ron Jon Surf Shop. Unfortunately the rest of the mall was usually half empty. Artegon came in with an exciting concept to convert the mall into an artist market. I liked the idea, having been to a number of exiting markets around the world like the bazaar in Turkey. Rent for artist vendors started at a cheap rate of $6 a day, so I went to several of the early pitch meetings to consider the idea of setting up a shop for myself.

After the pitch we all got a chance to tour the new facility. All of the inner courtyards had been given alleyways of cages for vendors to set up shop. Each cage was about 10 feet square. The effect as we walked through the dark space was much like an insane asylum or Thunder dome from Mad Max. One artist had invested in a huge retail gallery space for his own vanity gallery. When I re-visited Artegon several months later, he had moved out. Unfortunately the cages are never more than half occupied.

A metal zip line elevated aerial adventure  had been constructed in the largest courtyard. Within one month of the opening, a tourist fell to his death from the attraction. There is no safety net, but I imagine tourists must sign a waver before they climb up to the heights. The Daily City, another Orlando News site set up shop for the opening of Artegon, but that store also closed. Walking around recently I didn't recognize and local artists as vendors, although local B-Side artists collaborated to create some decent murals.

Driving from the airport to Orlando on the Bee line and on I-4 I noticed billboards for Artegon. They hope to bring in tourists to the market and travel destination. Despite the marketing efforts the place still has a lonely vacant feel. Gods and Monsters, a comic superstore just opened, and at the opening day the market was finally bustling with costumed superheros. Perhaps it will take a superhero to save this artist market ideal. Right now the place seems to have an identity crisis.

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