In the summer of 2018, artist and designer Elisabeth Hays was forming a plan. She had recently sold her interior design store in downtown Fairhope to focus her energies full-time on fine art, and she was looking for a way to get her work in front of potential buyers.
She decided to plan a pop-up art festival, timed just right for holiday shopping, and invited one or two artist friends to participate. They each asked a few makers they knew, and before long, she had a roster of 12 women ready to set up tables at event space Little Point Clear for a three-day shopping experience. The crew of artists hoped 50 shoppers would come … maybe 100. Over the three-day pop-up, the little space instead welcomed more than 500.
After the smashing success of the first festival, dubbed “Little Art Mart,” the group of artists went on to host three more exhibition weekends over the next year and a half, eventually growing to 25 artists. Many would sell out of their work the first day.
COVID-19, however, brought all of the fun to a crashing halt. “There was no way we could cram 500 people safely in one room and a tent, so we had to cancel the show,” Hays remembers of summer 2020.
The artists regrouped and, undeterred, decided to open a brick-and-mortar pop-up so customers could shop the same handmade art and gifts, but over an extended period of time in small numbers and with social distancing. The store would stay open for the fall of 2020, filling an otherwise vacant storefront in downtown Fairhope with colorful offerings and curbside pickup for those uncomfortable shopping in person.
“Most of us never wanted a store,” Hays remembers, but the ability to use the pop-up as a place for experimentation proved enticing. Artists who normally produce bodies of work for galleries could use Little Art Mart as a place to flesh out new ideas, pursue fun side projects and make crafty things that just sparked joy. “[The Art Mart] gives us a space to let our hair down a bit,” laughs Hays. “When we’re inspired to make Christmas ornaments, make a flower pot or [like Kelley Ogburn] write a book, we have a space for that now.”
It’s the camaraderie between artists that has given this project longevity, however. Artist Kelly Adger explains that Little Art Mart is a place for artists to grow as a group.
“We all openly share techniques, suppliers and ideas without hesitation, feeling that we are all in this together. We celebrate our successes both individually and as a group.”
The camaraderie that these 11 creative people share is evident when you walk in the door, and the one-of-a-kind treasure you walk out with is something special, too.
Why We Love It
98 Percent Handmade
Almost everything in the store is painted, crafted or created by local hands. The ultimate “shop local” experience!
One of a Kind
The items are unique, so you won’t find them anywhere else — perfect when shopping for that hard-to-buy-for someone on your list.
Get the offerings of an art festival but presented as if in a curated boutique.
Women Building Up Women
The encouragement among the artists is contagious, spurring each of them to step out of her comfort zone and grow.
Meet the Artist
Each of the women take turns working the shop, so on any given day you will get to visit with a different maker about what you see on the walls and shelves.
Little Art Mart • 209B S Section St., Fairhope. littleartmarts.com