The POST Pilsen gallery’s monthly market, featuring vendors selling items from hot sauce to vintage clothing to tapes, is not a typical craft fair. Natasha Ryan and Bojan Jovanovic, who operate the gallery and organized the market, intend the monthly fair to be “an eclectic group of people…a fusing of different ages, different ideas,” according to Ryan. She and Jovanovic have hosted a variety of musicians, artists, and other performers in their Racine Avenue apartment gallery since they moved there last November. The two work together at a booking agency for musicians, and their work inspires them to organize events in unusual venues: “We want to have uncommon events at a gallery-slash-home,” Ryan says.
The POST Pilsen Fair was inspired by the Renegade Craft Fair, an arts and crafts market held yearly in five cities across the United States that features a wide variety of artists and vendors. Ryan and Jovanovic envisioned their Pilsen gallery as the home of a similar but smaller-scale enterprise. They held their first fair in February, a lively but somewhat crowded event with a total of 30 vendors. In March, they scaled back to 20, and followed it with a dance party featuring Database, a band from Brazil.
March’s POST Pilsen Market featured a diverse mix of vendors and crafts. On display in the gallery’s front rooms were vintage clothing from Pilsen store Knee Deep, embroidered cushions and painted cards by local amateur artist Rachel Wallis, photography by Andersonville photographer Becky Nixon, and jewelry from Purple and Lime, a brand by fashion designer Rebecca George. In what is normally Ryan and Jovanovic’s living room, Brian Starr, a DJ and musician as well as an amateur cook, sold his brand of organic, vegan, homemade soup. In the apartment kitchen, a selection of hot sauces was for sale, as well as CDs and tapes from Moss Tapes, a Chicago-based music label. Some of the vendors are neighbors and friends of Ryan and Jovanovic, while others heard about the event through mutual friends or advertisements on Craigslist and Facebook.
Several of the vendors had sold their items at February’s market and were pleased enough with its success to return in March. Most comment that they are drawn by the event’s atmosphere as much as by the opportunity to sell their crafts. Starr declares: “It was the people that brought me back the second time. I watch people. They come in here with a straight face…everyone turns that frown upside-down. There’s music, food, beer. It’s a really beautiful scene.”
Some of the vendors are less positive. Wallis says that she is “still in the wait-and-see phase” as far as her continued participation in the monthly event. She explains that a fair like this has to be financially worthwhile to warrant artists’ continued participation, as it is difficult for people who both create art and work full-time jobs to spend an entire day selling their items.
Purple and Lime’s proprietor, Rebecca George, and her friend Dana Rochelle, an actress and hand model, are attracted to the event by more than the opportunity to sell goods: it allows them to connect with other artists around Chicago. “When you’re an artist, you have to support other artists…It’s motivating to talk to other people, to network,” explains Rochelle.
Ryan and Jovanovic charge no fee to vendors who want to sell their wares at the market, and provide free food, beer, and music for all who come. The atmosphere at this month’s fair was relaxed, with a crowd ranging from teenagers to the middle-aged. For April’s fair, Ryan and Jovanovic intend to open their backyard, where they have an organic garden, and add a small farmer’s market to the event. Some vendors will move outside, and Ryan and Jovanovic expect to grill out back. The two hope the market will continue indefinitely, as Ryan puts it, “connecting people who wouldn’t necessarily get to be in the same place at the same time.”