Summer Art Market a hit downtown

John Joyce
Artist Don Matthews of Martinsburg, West Virginia, draws at his booth during the Summer Art Market in Royal Square, Sunday, July 31, 2016. John A. Pavoncello photo
  • Organizers called the first Summer Art Market in downtown York's Royal Square a hit this weekend.
  • More than 80 vendors, live bands and food trucks drew thousands from in and around York to the city's growing arts scene.

Despite the rain Saturday, the organizers of the first Summer Art Market held in York City over the weekend said the event was well attended — and a success.

Thousands of visitors ambled from booth to booth and gallery to gallery in York's Royal Square district, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the more than 80 vendors, live musicians and food trucks the event had to offer.

The Summer Art Market, the brainchild of the Parliament Arts Organization, brought artists, art lovers and the "art-curious" to downtown York Saturday and Sunday. Some said they had never been there before.

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Vendors: "Yesterday started off well, and then it rained so it was kind of a bust. But today a lot more people have come out and I have gotten more foot traffic at my booth, so today has been a good day," visual artist Nastassja E. Swift said Sunday.

Swift, 23, studied art at Virginia Commonwealth University. She said she made the drive up from Virginia Beach, Virginia, to York to show her needle-felted dolls, paintings and essential oils. She said she has shipped works up to the Parliament's gallery before for shows, but this was her first in-person visit to York City.

"I saw that they had a call for vendors. So I applied,” she said. "It seems like, from talking to people who are from here, (York) is kind of like up and coming as far as an artist community. But I feel like this part of the city (Royal Square) seems like it has a lot of potential with its storefronts. (It has) kind of like an artist’s culture."

Swift's response is exactly the kind of experience Parliament's programs director Stacy McClain said the nonprofit had when cultivating the Summer Art Market. Galleries and studios line the streets where South Duke and East King streets intersect. The section of town is home to Hive Arstpace & Studios, King's Courtyard Artist's Collective, and countless other art and sound studios, supply stores, and other creative-minded businesses and boutiques.

Growing scene: "We are totally blown away with how many people we’ve had," McClain said. The rain Saturday drove many of the patrons inside the galleries and studio spaces, whereas the sunshine Sunday allowed families to enjoy the KidsZone — and for music and art lovers to enjoy the many craft and visual arts vendors, the bands on stage and the kind of casual people-watching only a street festival can provide.

"The goal was to bring new people downtown and to show them what the community has going on," McClain said. "We think it's a cool thing to help out our neighbors and other merchants in the area and to draw people into their spaces. Just to show people, new people who haven’t come downtown before, that there are awesome things happening in the city and there are so many changes going on."

For anyone who was not able to attend the Summer Art Market, fret not. Most of the vendors will have packed up and gone home, but the local artists to whom the galleries and studios of Royal Square are home will still be there Friday for the monthly event known as First Friday. First Friday is a monthly celebration of downtown York, highlighting economic and cultural drivers such as restaurants, retailers, bars and wineries and, of course, artists.

Up next: Hive Artspace & Studios owner and curator Susan Scofield, who has spent time in larger art communities in Brooklyn, New York, and in San Diego, California, said she feels as though York's art scene is on the rise.

"I think the city, in part being very affordable, helps a lot of people because you have heard the term 'starving artist,' which means a lot of people are trying to do art as a living and it is very hard to do that if you are living someplace like New York or Baltimore or one of the big cities because the cost of living there is so high," Scofield said. "Here we are in a nice centrally located area to (Washington) D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Pittsburgh, all the big hubs."

Scofield said the art scenes in Harrisburg and Lancaster also are growing, which, in turn, helps local artists in York to network and to gain exposure.

"So I think this is a great central location where artists can live affordably, create and still have access to all of those big cities."

— Reach John Joyce at  jjoyce2@yorkdispatch.comor on Twitter at @JohnJoyceYD.