Black Art Market brings local vendors, marks beginning of festival


Josh Christian | Photography Editor

The Black Arts Festival, which will run through March 24, features workshops, lectures and more. The Black Art Market (above) at Pocket Park last week kicked off the festival. The market aimed to increase the exposure of black vendors and artists by featuring over 15 local business owners.

The entrance to Pocket Park would come as a bit of a surprise for students who walked around campus unaware of the 2017 Tulane Black Arts Festival’s first event Wednesday. Along the park’s fringe, crisp white tables presented vibrant black art.

The Black Art Market’s purpose was to give black vendors an opportunity to sell their products to a customer base that predominantly lacks exposure to their merchandise. With no fee for setting up, vendors were able to keep 100 percent of the profits. It ran from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

“It’s allowing local — especially local, black — business owners to have a face, sell their products and get awareness out there about what they’re selling,” Tulane Black Arts Festival Chair Jaelyn Edwards said.

More than 15 local vendors and artists participated in the event. They sold a variety of goods, including art, clothing and skin and hair care. Aside from aesthetics, some vendors sold journals and crystals, catering to the health of the mind and soul.

The market is the first event of its kind for the Tulane Black Arts Festival, despite the best efforts of its past planning committee. Last year’s market was canceled because of bad weather, though the database of vendors compiled gave the Tulane Black Arts Festival committee a list of 40 interested parties to reach out to this year.

Anika Ofori, a Cleveland native and New Orleans resident, was one of the vendors from last year’s recruitment process. The skin care products that she sells raises money towards developing a project that provides clean water to those who lack easy access. This market provided an opportunity for her to expand her clientele and network. Ofori said “there was a very exciting energy.”

The Tulane Black Arts Festival is a series of events meant to highlight black art and culture. Its mission is accomplished through a wide array of events including lectures, workshops and performances.

“[The Tulane Black Arts Festival] allows for an expression of African-American art and African Diaspora art in general and bringing awareness, especially to the Tulane community, that sometimes the black voice is lacking in a sense,” Edwards said. “I think it’s a very enlightening process.”

Following the market, the festival’s second event will take place from 8:30 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. on Friday. “Art in Motion: A Caribbean Dance Workshop” will be a casual dance lesson for anyone interested in learning the cultural roots of dancehall, a music genre and dance style that is integrated into mainstream music. The workshop will be taught by Lalah Smith, a member of the Tulane community and instructor at Dancing Grounds, a popular dance studio in the Bywater.

Other events planned for the festival include a performing arts showcase on Mar. 15 and a keynote lecture in collaboration with Tulane University Campus Programming Direction on March 24.

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