The night was colder than an average New Orleans evening, but the vendors seemed refreshingly unbothered. Perhaps their nervous excitement warmed them. Located in the chic Baldwin & Company courtyard on Elysian Fields Ave, The New Orleans bookstore and wine bar resides in the heart of the Marigny neighborhood and opens up every Friday from 7-11 PM. This weekly event has recently emerged in the New Orleans art and social scene: Nola Art Bar’s “Market Fridays.” The culture of vendor-style marketplaces has taken a unique liking to New Orleans, but what is the emerging charm rising from this newfound social event? What local vendors have taken center stage?
There are a few staple elements that comprise Market Fridays: local artistic vendors bringing their unique craft, a humming food truck dishing up creole classics, drooping fairy lights hung over the outdoor space, a DJ with an ear for a good beat, and like any New Orleans event– a bar. But the southern charm and energy that buzzes from these crafts come from the people that run them.
The backbone of Market Fridays works off of many moving pieces. The energy emanates off of each artist’s table surrounding. The tables surround a stone fountain in the courtyard’s center. Putting together all of the disparate pieces and voices that belong to each vendor creates a more cohesive sense of unique cultural capital that makes New Orleans, unequivocally, New Orleans.
Founder of Array Events Nola and the businesswoman behind “Market Fridays,” Crystal Weat has taken the art curation world in New Orleans by storm. Baton Rouge-born but New Orleans-bound, Crystal is not only an artist herself, but thrives off of building relationships with other local artists. This became evident from her upbeat and talkative nature at the event as she moved in and out of smiley conversations. After the owner of Nola Art Bart reached out to Crystal, she began organizing the event and curating the lineup of local vendors. Crystal described the market as having a “sexy and retro feel. Last week we had a DJ spinning vinyl and we always have vintage clothing.” Retro is one way to describe it, as Crystal spoke with a fur-collared coat wrapped around her and a yellow-colored drink in hand.
The food truck grumbled as Tasha Harden, creator of Suga Kissed jewels, let the light fall onto her face. “I’m from the East coast but down here every one is open and friendly.” Likewise, when it comes to making jewelry she said, “I go with the flow, even my rings, I bend the wire myself. I made all of this jewelry in New Orleans about two years ago.”
Black unicorn tarot, also known as Ashton the tarot card reader, was also inspired by the openness of New Orleans, but in the spiritual realm. Orange glitter twinkled across Ashton’s collarbone, matching a bright orange top. “Here in New Orleans, I have more space to hear spirit.” At Market Fridays, “the southern hospitality charm is everywhere…I’ve talked to the other vendors and it’s cool to see everyone with their own businesses and how they present that out into the world.”
Small talk and laughter began to mask the growling engine of the food truck, as did DJ Kuti’s electric remix of the Bee Gee’s “Stayin Alive.” Winding plants and cacti with white spikes covered the table next to the tarot card reader, an unlikely pair of tables. The duo in charge of the plants also appeared as an unlikely duo, but their youthful banter soon proved their compatibility. India– a young woman dressed in casual business attire and the owner of Abundant Drifting juxtaposed her counterpart, Dylan, who wore a pink hooded onesie and a rainbow tutu around his waist.
“I knew one of them caught onto my butt earlier,” Dylan said, plucking one of India’s stray cactus thorns out of his behind. He fluffed his rainbow tutu as if he was readjusting a tie. India looked back and smiled, “Street vending is unique to New Orleans. I wouldn’t be able to sell my plants anywhere else. There’s an abundance of these markets which is rare in a lot of cities but not here, there are too many to count.”
The increase in venues like Market Fridays has not only taken people from their 9 to 5s but developed social networks between artists that otherwise wouldn’t exist. The event’s DJ, DJ Kuti said, “Market Fridays are femme forward, homegrown, and local… People are always vending and hustling so this is very much a part of our culture. The most important part is putting the money back into your neighbor’s pocket. Despite the fluctuation of the economy we are committed to local small businesses.”
Market Fridays, regardless of how many customers roll in and out, betters the New Orleans community because it strengthens bonds between artists. The craftsmanship varies from vintage curation, tarot card reading, DJing, candle-making, and jewelry making. The market sits between two disparate neighborhoods: the Bywater and Marigny, which brings in an eclectic clash of neighborhoods and a mix of people that come from different upbringings. The one thing that does function as Market Friday’s common denominator is the overwhelming openness in the New Orleans art industry that brings different walks of life and artistry into one, string-lit courtyard for 4 undisputed hours every Friday night.