Why an artists' marketplace in TriCities is unlikely to happen soon

Posted11/20/2017 12:56 PM
  • Some artists in the Tri-Cities would welcome a gallery or marketplace where they could sell their work. Batavia's Water Street Studios has some of the qualities of such a space.

    Some artists in the Tri-Cities would welcome a gallery or marketplace where they could sell their work. Batavia's Water Street Studios has some of the qualities of such a space. Daily Herald File Photo

The arts councils or commissions in the Tri-Cities have all put together excellent events and created venues for artists to show their wares.

But I get notes on occasion from artists, potters or woodworkers wondering if they may ever see a marketplace designed for them to conduct business -- essentially a place that would not cost an arm and leg to participate.

This has not been an easy vision to bring to reality.

In pursuing its vision of an arts center, rather than a marketplace, the St. Charles Arts Council figured out early on in speaking to art co-ops around the country that many market settings were artist-driven and had a hard time sustaining operations.

"Many of them were in communities where getting space is cheap," said Elizabeth Bellaver, past president of the arts council. "But you often get into the 'art vs. craft vs. stuff' debate when you talk about artist markets."

Bellaver points to the Vintage Market in North Aurora that combines arts, crafts and "tchotchkes" as an example of a local marketplace.

Another option that Bellaver said the council has been approached about was the creation of an artists' market in which artists would rent "mini galleries."

A promoter interested in overseeing such a place did a lot of work and actually found a location in the city, but ultimately did the math on what it would cost -- and the artists weren't willing to pay that much to do it, Bellaver added.

In addition, the Geneva Cultural Arts Commission took part in developing a business plan for a Geneva Arts Center to be managed by the Geneva Foundation for the Arts.

But this vision has the same problem. There hasn't been a perfect spot with little or no overhead to operate that has been considered, plus it ultimately may not fall into the category of a marketplace for selling wares. Generally, the concept on paper is more of a place to showcase art and offer art education sessions.

Batavia's Water Street Studio represents a spot in which some key factors seem to find a happy medium -- a group of artists become committed to the project; real estate is inexpensive, or a building owner donates some space; and the city supports the concept.

That new cop shop:

A few readers were curious about the process that will take place on the west side of St. Charles when a new police station makes its home in what is now an empty Valley Shopping Center.

It dawned on me that I too couldn't remember if this project -- one that I sensed coming quite some time ago because it makes so much sense -- would result in a police station being retrofitted into the existing structures there, or if the wrecking ball would take down the retail strip shell.

It's the latter, city officials tell me. The Valley Shopping Center, as residents have known it for decades, will be removed. We can expect to see the demolition part of this project starting next summer.

The new police station would be built on the south side of the site, replacing the retail strip building that faces Main Street.

Lights on caboose:

Just when you thought all of the cool ideas for a fundraiser were taken, Batavia Historical Society members had the light bulb pop in their minds about something with, well, light bulbs.

In a campaign to benefit the upcoming Depot Museum expansion project, the historical society is asking area residents to purchase a bulb for $10 each or three for $25 to "Light Up the Caboose" on the museum property during the city's Celebration of Lights Festival to kick off the holidays on Sunday, Nov. 26.

Those who buy a bulb will have a paper one with the name of their choice hung inside the Depot Museum between now and the lighting ceremony to let others know of the support.

Those interested in buying a bulb to light up the historic Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Caboose next to the museum can do so at the museum gift shop between 2 and 4 p.m. five days a week (not Tuesdays or Thursdays) or by visiting bataviahistoricalsociety.org.

It is fitting that Polly Ernzen gets the honor of lighting the bulbs, considering her father Ted Schuster was an employee of the rail company and played a key role in getting the caboose put in place in 1975.

Time to help:

Maybe this is your year to help the Salvation Army or any other number of organizations or church projects designed to make the holidays better for individuals and families in need.

If you've never had the enjoyment of volunteering time or donating money for a good cause, give it a try. You won't regret it.


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