When I first wandered into the East Village Market Collective, conveniently located under a 12,000 sq ft tent beside the historic Simmons Building, I experienced it from the other side of the artist's table. After spending the last ten years exhibiting at hundreds of trade shows and events around the world, Market Collective was like nothing I had EVER experienced before! I got to wander up and down the aisles as local artists showcased their handmade goods, live bands performed on stage, DJs played their fresh beats, mixologists concocted fresh libations, and local food trucks served up fresh food made with love. I was already impressed with the level of comfort and community I witnessed that first weekend ... but I had no idea how much more was in store for me to uncover!
Curious to learn more I recently got a chance to sit down with Angel Guerra, co-founder of Market Collective at Higher Ground Cafe (around the corner from their head office), to better understand their humble beginnings and the secret "sauce" that has made it what it is today!
Two Personalities Coming Together
When Angel Guerra and Angela Dione met through mutual friends in their last year of University, it didn't take long for them to realize they both had a passion for the arts and in building their respective communities. They both had been searching for a gathering place where local artists could meet, support one another, and share ideas ... but to no avail! Angel had a love of live music (already hosting shows at her house on weekends) and Angela was passionate about the arts in various forms. So, rather than waiting on others to make this a reality, they put their first event together in just three short months, and welcomed 25 artists, live performers, and over 400 attendees to their first event in the summer of 2008! On a hunch, two very different personalities came together in support of a common goal ... and the Market Collective movement had begun!
From it's very beginnings, the goal was to create a collective gathering if talented artists that was "hip, relevant, and inclusive". In other words, each event is designed to showcase the latest trends (particularly in fashion and music), include products and services closely connected to the needs and desires of Calgarians, and appeal to people from all walks of life (all ages and all economic backgrounds).
This standard of keeping Market Collective "hip, relevant, and inclusive" has led to the following achievements over the past seven years:
- Moving from Carpenter's Union Hall, to the Anthill Building, and then to the Chinese Cultural Centre (its primary location)
- Celebrating it's annual birthday in the East Village (along the RiverWalk); the largest event each year
- Evolving to include 58 artists (out of 150+ applicants) and 13 performing acts each weekend
- Recruiting over 80 volunteers per event
- Bringing in upwards of 16,000 attendees over a single weekend
- In 2014, generating $1.5 million in sales for the collective artists (artists keep 100 percent of their commission, which puts money back into Calgary's local economy)
The focus on maintaining these standards has set the stage for the atmosphere at every Market Collective ... one that celebrates community, creativity, collaboration and an appreciation for local art and artists in Calgary.
Market Collective - A Destination Location
Market Collective has quickly become a destination location for many Calgarians who support local artists and performers. It's also where people go to meet, learn about new products and services, and share in memorable experiences. For example, I see more people hugging at Market Collective than at most airports! They meet at the front door, get their picture taken (with props, might I add) in the complimentary Market Collective Photo Booth, grab a beer at Village Brewery or latte at Rosso Coffee Roasters and then wander through the aisles as live music and DJs take the stage. Meanwhile, kids are perched on shoulders and grandparents push strollers through a unique mix of people from all parts of the city (and beyond). It's a beautiful thing!
People don't necessarily go to Market Collective to shop (although that is something that happens in most instances). They go there to spend time with others, whether it's meeting old friends or befriending new people in the food court, celebrating the creativity and craftsmanship of local vendors, and supporting "local" entrepreneurs.
Jenny Kornfeld, resident photographer and long time member of the Market Collective team, has the unique pleasure of seeing these personal connections through her camera lens and has watched relationships blossom over the years. In fact, many friends and families take their customary photo in the booth each year. For these individuals, this has become a tradition that holds more value than just an annual shopping adventure.
Where Artists Collect, Collaborate and Grow
As an entrepreneur for over 20 years, I was most impressed with what I learned from the artists that showcased their businesses at Market Collective. I understand the risks that a new business owner undertakes to follow their passion and make their dream a reality. It can be a scary place with a lot of competition and very little camaraderie or support. Market Collective isn't like that at all! In fact, several of the artists had mentioned to me how they've built great friendships and connected with other likeminded artists to create a support network through these events!
The cut-throat nature inherent in big business doesn't exist inside the Chinese Cultural Centre walls during any Market Collective weekend. People are there, on both sides of the artists' tables, to connect, support and gather to share ideas, and forge bonds ... ones that are meant to LAST! When Angel and Angela hosted their first event seven years ago they had no idea what would become of the "hip, relevant, and inclusive" event supporting local artists and performers, but it is certainly something special that Calgarians come flocking to several times a year!
Over the last few weeks I've had the pleasure of spending some time with Muladhara Yoga Wear, Crystal Bar Soap, Wrinkle and Crease, Clothing Bar Boutique, 6streets, Rosso Coffee Roasters, Shop Boys, cSPACE, BARK YYC, TeepeeTots and Co., Family Freezed, TrueBüch, Made by Marcus, Populess, Winter Woolies Shop and many more artists who share in the Market Collective spirit. You can check out these artists on our social media using the icons at the top of the page.
(This post was originally published on www.sixfootcanasian.com on December 11, 2015)