During my recent trip to the west coast, I had the opportunity to meet with Market Collective co-founder Angel Guerra and communications coordinator Christine Masuda while stopping through Calgary. I hustle up the stairs to their Kensington office, finding Angel and Christine in the midst of planning a 2016 year in review.
Market Collective has been a leader in Calgary’s artisan and arts community since 2008. Angel explains that she and co-founder Angela “had different passions. At the time I was invested in music and community, and Angela was exploring the arts. It was through this mix that Market Collective formed and grew.”
The Market Collective team averages eight markets each year, with the next market set for this coming weekend. Christine describes the markets as “a place for the creative industries to come together: artists, artisans, designers, musicians, and food artists together all in one space. There’s such a strong community of people working off of each other. It’s a meeting place for the culture of Calgary to grow and play.”
FULL: What does a typical market look like?
Angel Guerra: Some people come to shop, others like music, and others enjoy socializing. We try to make Market Collective accessible to people who want to drive the local economy, but also invite people that just want to gather in a common space and exchange ideas. At each market there are about 15 food vendors and 60 artists. There’s live music and DJs all day. It’s an all-ages licensed venue. There’s a lot of seating and some interactive elements.
FULL: How have things changed in the eight years you’ve been running markets?
AG: We were careful from the beginning to create a strong mission statement, so that as we grew and changed, we’d have something to grow into. We set out to be a local market created to promote the work of local artists, artisans, musicians, and designers. That’s stayed the same. We’ve always had a real focus on the artists and musicians. The main change is that it’s bigger now, and we’re catching more of the community and bringing in different artists all the time.
FULL: Has your relationship to the creative community changed through Market Collective?
AG: Before Market, I was putting on music shows from my home, and Angela was selling some of her art through stores. I think our relationship with the community has stayed similar, but we know a lot more people now, and they truly believe in the work that Market Collective does. We've always had a lot of support from the community, and that support and trust keeps growing.
FULL: Have you noticed a broadening or expansion of different kinds of makers?
Angel: We’re always looking for more visual artists. We live in such an entrepreneurial age, and there’s a lot of functional art: jewelry, ceramics, paper goods. Trying to keep a really strong visual arts component has been a priority of ours. A lot of what you see is a mix between craft and fine art, which makes the price points accessible. However, we would like to keep the visual component strong. I feel like that’s one thing that can get a bit brushed aside in the makers' movement. I want Market Collective to be a place where people can sell work at many different price points.
FULL: How has the makers' movement affected what you do?
Angel: When we started, we were the only local market in Calgary. This past holiday season, there were 16 other markets operating on the same weekend as ours. It’s intimidating sometimes. Just because we were one of the forerunners doesn’t mean we'll always stay ahead. You have to constantly pull back and ask, “Okay, how do you stay ahead of a curve?”
Another reality is that these artists and artisans are entrepreneurs. They have to take advantage of every opportunity to show their work, and there can be repetition across markets. So we need to keep asking ourselves what we can do to differentiate Market Collective from other similar events in our city.
One of the things that we’re really passionate about and want to pursue more next year is the interactive component. We want people to feel involved and connected with Market Collective outside of purchasing work. For a couple years now, we’ve done DIY workshops. This Christmas we hosted a carol choir. People signed up for three practices and four performances at our Holiday MCs. It means that 45 people felt that kind of connection to Market Collective. Aside from really trying to treat the artists well, and have a good social media presence, I think that’s another thing we want to set us apart. We don’t want to just call it a community, we want to provide ways to participate. For each MC we have a volunteer team of 92 people.
Christina Masuda: The community also involves the people who come to the market to shop. It seems like there are people who come every year to all the markets. You start to know them, and they start to know a lot of the artists. That’s an important part of the community.
AG: We’ve also been working to use Market Collective as a tool for social justice. We’ll do food or clothing drives at the markets. We donate spaces to the community. We feel like we have such a strong voice in the community, and we’d like to use it to promote things outside of what we’re doing.
CM: Market’s a really nice place for people who are new to the city. A lot of the volunteers I’ve met, people attending the DIY workshops, or participating in the choir have told me they just moved to Calgary and are trying to meet people. I’m from Calgary, but I moved back here after being gone for awhile, and it was great, meeting all kinds of creative people.