This weekend, if you get a chance, I recommend stopping by the little market at 23rd and Guadalupe. Officially titled the People’s Renaissance Market, it is the only continuously operated open-air arts and crafts market in the country.
According to the history section on the market’s website, vendors began congregating along Guadalupe Street, also known as “The Drag”, during the summer of 1969 and soon the street was lined with hundreds of vendors. The market officially launched in 1973 when the city established a process for the vendors to purchase permits to sell their products after their work is verified as authentic.
Laura Esparza, the Cultural Affairs Division manager for the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, described the market as a “collective effort of a collective group to offer a unique shopping experience.”
On holidays and weekends the card table-filled plaza is populated with customers taking their pick from a wide array of hand-crafted goods including jewelry, paintings, t-shirts, photographs, and handbags, and other miscellaneous items.
Most of the items are really inexpensive and you’ll know you’re getting a unique product. But beware, many of the vendors only take cash so try to have a few bucks with you, or visit on of the ATMs along the drag.
It’s a really cool place to spend a few minutes on the weekends just browsing all of the cool and sometimes bizarre stuff for sale, especially when the weather is nice.
Also, a lot of the people selling stuff are really cool and fun to talk to. A lot of them will tell you all sorts of stories about the drag and the interesting stuff they’ve done.
One of these cool people is Randy Eckels, one of the long-time vendors. He began selling jewelry at the open-air market in 1976.
Randy, who has a beard almost down to his chest, said he picked up his jewelry-making skills while recovering from a car accident. He is a silversmith and lapidary by trade, meaning he works with metals and gemstones.
Link Brunson is another jewelry vendor that can be found in the Renaissance Market. This dread-lock sporting fellow sells really awesome branded leather bracelets, mood rings, and hemp bracelets.
He and his wife, Pixie, set up shop at the Renaissance Market three years ago when they retired from guerilla vending, which he described as carrying all of his supplies around in his backpack and selling his jewelry without a permit while traveling the county.
So stop by the Renaissance Market sometime to have a true Austin experience and participate in some interesting conversations!