Born from community and sustainability, York Boulevard art market promotes local artists

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Clothes and tote bags on sale at the Art Market on York Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA. April 9, 2022. Kate Bown/The Occidental.

On the second Saturday of every month, several small businesses on York Boulevard allow vendors to set up temporary stalls and sell their wares, from houseplants to clothing, or even decorations made from ordinary objects. Founder of Plant Creative and a coordinator for the York Blvd Art Market, Leslie “Lola” Morales said the art market is focused on sustainability and the local community.

“We want to keep our market creator-based, featuring handmade goods by local artists only,” Morales said.

The latest of multiple prior attempts, the art market was born from the COVID-19 pandemic and The Pop Hop, a bookstore on York Boulevard, according to one of the owners, Adriana Yugovich. The four owners of The Pop Hop helped to reestablish and facilitate the art market in order to support local artists as well as the community of Highland Park.

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Organizers of and volunteers for the Art Market in front of Pop-Hop on York Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA. April 9, 2022. Kate Bown/The Occidental.

“The history of the art market goes back, probably to the early 2000s, and it has had various organizers over the years,” Yugovich said. “During the pandemic, the district told us to shut it down with our businesses.”

Courtnay Robbins, who sells hand-dyed garments through her business madebynaybird, said she sees the art market as a space to promote sustainability.

“I do all the hand-dying myself. I only buy fabrics made with fair trade organic cotton, and the upcycled clothing is all from thrift stores,” Robbins said. “I buy it, dye it and sell it.”

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Courtnay Robbins selling hand-dyed textiles and promoting her business, Naybirds, at the Art Market on York Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA. April 9, 2022. Kate Bown/The Occidental.

Chloe Ford (first year) said she was immediately attracted to the lively and wildly diverse market.

“My friends and I happened upon the art market because we were already on York,” Ford said. “It was a great time. There were a lot of vendors selling clothes, stickers, art and more. For me, I appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into a piece and found a lot of good pieces at the art market.”

Yugovich said the art market is largely supported by the owners of The Pop Hop, who work on a volunteer basis.

Co-owner of The Pop Hop bookstore Kenzo Martinez said he felt for artists who were struggling to sell their wares during the pandemic and decided to launch an outdoor art market to help them.

“It actually started with Lola from Plant Creative. She had been setting up in front, just selling plants,” Martinez said. “That gave us the idea to expand and give her a permanent space. A lot of businesses shut down and I was talking to a lot of artists. These people had no work, and I figured the best way to support these people was to start an open-air market outside.”

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Clothes sold at the Art Market on York Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA. April 9, 2022. Kate Bown/The Occidental.

Morales said she discovered a talent for making artwork with pots and plants during the pandemic. She said the owners of The Pop Hop reached out to her, making her a coordinator of the art market as well as a vendor. In addition to selling her wares, Morales said she regularly helps the vendors along with volunteer coordinators.

Martinez said other businesses began joining in the effort, which added a more communal element to the market. One of the first business owners to get involved was Ramon Lopez, the founder of Ramon’s Rags to Riches.

“I was asked to do it because I had been here for a long time, and also I was here when the first art walk started,” Lopez said. “I’m an artist myself, so I got really involved in the art walk in the beginning before the pandemic.”

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An artist showcasing their art in a car at the Art Market on York Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA. April 9, 2022. Kate Bown/The Occidental.

Yugovich said that while other local businesses such as the Highland Cafeand Café de Leche pitched in over time, she does not want to see the art market lose its original spirit.

“I don’t want the market to just become about growth,” Yugovich said. “It’s a colonialist attitude, and it’s the last thing I want the art market to embody.”

Martinez said after a certain point, the art market would simply be too large to be managed effectively.

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Gemma BloomBecker selling their jewelry, coasters and stickers at the Art Market on York Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA. April 9, 2022. Kate Bown/The Occidental.

“I really don’t want it to get too big because that creates another set of problems, like disorderliness and people drunk in the streets,” Martinez said.

Even if it increases in size, Lopez said she is confident that the York Blvd Art Market will maintain its mission.

“Absolutely, it will expand. It’s all about fostering people’s creativity through art, and it is amazing,” Lopez said. “All of us bring excellent ideas and planning together. We are a great team, and that’s how we make things together.”