In the few months since its creation, Fruit Stand art market, a market focusing on inclusivity in art vendors, has taken the Lawrence community by storm.
It hosted its second-ever art market at the Ecumenical Campus Ministries (ECM) building north of the Kansas Union.
Created by Niko Cano-Katsunuma, Yasi Farah and Lyss Bezner, Fruit Stand was born in the Discord server of the Lawrence Creative Commune.
“We were talking about art markets back in January and came up with the idea of hosting an art market that’s accessible for everyone,” Farah said. “We were trying to make it for first-time vendors as a way for them to have this experience without the stress that other art markets usually come with.”
Cano-Katsunuma and Farah, both juniors from Overland Park, described the art market as being a low-stakes opportunity for artists in the area to get their start as vendors, which is something they said they hadn’t seen much of in the Lawrence art scene.
“The art community can be hard to get into, from what I’ve seen and heard,” Cano-Katsunuma said. “It’s really hard to start selling art or being a vendor or making those connections because it’s just a really tight community here. If you’re not in the art group, I feel like it’s just hard to get started. We really just wanted to make sure that we were hosting something that was accessible to everyone, regardless of who they knew or their experience.”
Eva Ruiz, a sophomore from Lawrence, said she had been a baker for as long as she could remember but that she didn’t have experience with markets or selling her goods professionally.
Aside from baking custom orders for friends and family, Ruiz said she was unfamiliar with the business aspect of her line of work and didn’t know how to break into that sector.
“I didn’t have any professional experience being a vendor before [Fruit Stand],” Ruiz said. “So I didn’t know how table fees and costs worked, what to charge for what I sell, or how to get started.”
This is a problem that vendors and customers alike interested in marketspaces know all too well and one that the creators of Fruit Stand made a priority to combat.
“There are a lot of art markets around happening. The difference with ours is ours is free,” Farah said. “We do free tabling, while other places might charge. As an artist who is selling their work, you may not be familiar with how much money you have to pay for a table, how much space you get for the price you pay, or even what to sell. We have a close relationship with our vendors… So it’s like a very tight-knit family for Fruit Stand and whoever chooses to vend in our markets.”
Cano-Katsunuma agreed, saying the cost barriers that often come with other art markets hinder the diversity of artists and work.
“Other art markets around town, it’s like $50 to $200 for a tabling fee, and then it’s usually just the same artists at all of them because they’re the only ones who can afford to really do that,” Cano-Katsunuma said. “So I think it’s nice for people in Lawrence to have a fresh market to go to with new faces, smaller artists who make more radical art or different art than what’s typically seen in other markets.”
Ruiz was also worried about her lack of experience and didn’t feel comfortable being a vendor at an art market where all her peers had more experience than her or where she wouldn’t be welcomed because she was new to the field. She said that Fruit Stand made an effort to host less experienced vendors and give them the opportunity to gain experience for their future work.
“[Fruit Stand] creates a really welcoming space because I feel like a lot of times I get scared to be like, ‘Oh, well, I just do this as a hobby, no one cares about my thing,’” Ruiz said. “I feel like this is a great opportunity for people to get themselves out there and not be worried about sort of being judged for who they are, and it just makes it easier to put yourself out there and start your journey down selling what you’re doing.”
Cano-Katsunuma and Farah also said it was an intentional part of their plan because they understood how exclusive other art markets can be and they wanted to create an event that filled the needs of artists and vendors with less experience.
“Another thing that separates us from other art markets is that we don’t ask for experience, really,” Cano-Katsunuma said. “Some others usually have you submit a resume to show what you’ve done in the past… We just tried to keep it really low-pressure and not make it a stressful event. Everyone deserves to just be able to have a good experience at an art market, whether they have a ton of things to sell or not.”
Alongside being a venue for the vendors to gain experience and exposure, Cano-Katsunuma and Farah said they prioritized diversity and inclusivity as a pillar of Fruit Stand’s mission and wanted that to be made clear in the art market.
“We were focusing on having a lot of POC and looking to have a lot of minority works here,” Farah said. “As an Iranian artist, I always try to find people in my own community or encourage people of different communities to vend at or at least visit Fruit Stand. I really want to see an equal amount of everybody with the diversity of people and work.”
This push for diversity did not go unnoticed by vendors or clients, Ruiz said, and she credits that as being part of the reason behind Fruit Stand’s success and why she felt so comfortable.
“There’s a lot of diversity there from just how you get non-white vendors, and then you also get people that identify LGBT, so there’s a good, wide range of diversity, and it doesn’t feel like you’re showing up and buying from only middle-class white people,” Ruiz said. “It makes me feel very welcome there as someone that if a POC woman… It just feels more comfortable and more welcoming and less scary.”
Jordan Johnston, a sophomore from Olathe who went to the art market on Saturday, also applauded the focus on diversity.
“They had a lot of LGBTQ works and artists, and they seemed very accepting and had a lot of diversity,” Johnston said. “It was very inclusive, and I really enjoyed that part of the art fair. I think they made it more of a focus because a lot of well-known artists are sometimes not people of color, but that doesn’t mean people of color aren’t great artists, so I’m glad they pushed for that so other people could be represented.”
This was the first art market hosted by Fruit Stand that Johnston has attended, but she said she plans to attend as many as she can in the future.
“I would definitely go again because I enjoyed seeing what other people in college were creating, and I like to see the other levels and types of art that other people are interested in when a lot of us are in the same age group,” Johnston said. “I’m currently enrolled in an art class at KU called sculpture. I’ve always been a fan of art, I like going to the Plaza Art Fair in Kansas City every year, so I wanted to go to this art market as soon as I heard about it.”
Ruiz was a vendor at the April market, and she was a volunteer at the March art market. She said she hopes to vend with Fruit Stand again in the future and encourages everyone interested in vending to get their start with Fruit Stand as she did.
“Anyone who is looking to sell whatever they make, if they have goods they want to sell or a hobby they’re considering extending into a small business, I’d say take the opportunity,” Ruiz said. “Fill out the application form because it’s an easy process; the people in charge of it are so nice and welcoming and provide you with people to talk to. It’s great that they provide you with a group of people to talk to and communicate with about any questions you may have because you get actual opinions and don’t feel as alone in the process.”