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Art Star moves craft bazaars to virtual platform to showcase vendors amid pandemic conditions.

Art for every taste: Art Star’s Summer Virtual Craft Bazaar is completely online and features more than 30 artists. IMAGE COURTESY OF ERIN WAXMAN

As restrictions on aspects of daily life continue to change amid the pandemic, local businesses continue to find creative ways to adapt.

Northern Liberties’ Art Star,  a gallery and art event organizer featuring a constantly evolving curation of artists, moved forward with its 17th annual Spring Art Star Craft Bazaar in May.

Proprietors Megan Brewster and Erin Waxman usually hold the annual event over Mother’s Day weekend in May at Penn’s Landing.

Rather than can it completely, the duo made the decision to scrap the usual setup and move its largest art show of the year to an online platform.

Throughout the month of May, a collection of artists’ goods was featured online, with 15 percent off all purchases. Make-and-take demonstrations were posted on Art Star’s Instagram account, and incentives and raffles were available to those making a purchase.

Riding the momentum of success they experienced from the event and fueled by the new normal created by COVID-19, Brewster and Waxman decided to create an extension of the craft bazaar.

“We were actually already considering creating a vendor marketplace, where customers could shop the last group of bazaar vendors after the shows at a discount,” Brewster said. “COVID-19 lit the fire to get moving on it because our vendors needed a venue to sell their products since all their shows got canceled. And, we needed something to keep our own heads above water while our stores were closed and all events canceled.”

Although Art Star already has a fully functional website featuring artists from both its brick and mortar locations, going completely online was a big adjustment.

“Everything is closed and canceled so we all had to adapt and switch over to online sales. Our online sales before this were really only under 10 percent of our income, so we needed to switch gears and strengthen that side of our business,” Brewster said. “Our customers have been incredibly supportive.”

Aside from the annual craft bazaar in the spring, Art Star organizes several other craft bazaars and pop-ups throughout the year, and was keen on keeping a space available to preserve artists’ livelihood amid the current conditions.

Enter the Summer Virtual Craft Bazaar.

“It is an online/scaled-down version of our Art Star Craft Bazaars created as a response to COVID-19 since all of our in-person events are canceled at least until next year,” Brewster explained. “It is a curated collection of goods handmade by local and national craft vendors at 15 percent off.”

The first round of the bazaar opened on July 18, and items are available for online purchase at 15 percent off until they sell out.

New products and new vendors will be added every couple of months, with the plan to host another bazaar in the fall.

More than 30 artists curated by Art Star are currently featured. There will be an open application for the next round in an attempt to draw in fresh faces.

Similar to the Spring Craft Bazaar, there will be live “Make + Takes” of select vendors posted to Instagram.

“We plan to do that again this round and also add blog features on participants. I’ll continue to highlight the vendors and their work,” Brewster said. “I think customers like to get to know the artists behind the work, which is why folks love the in-person bazaars.” 

Additionally, Art Star is raffling off “a giant bundle of Art Star Craft Bazaar goodies” on the website. Tickets are $5 each or four for $15. 

And, while the physical events were canceled, there is some silver lining in the situation.

“Both a lot of work, just different work,” Brewster said. “. … At least with an online bazaar we don’t need to worry about the weather!”

Art Star hopes to continue following a forecast of success.

“[The goal is] to support our vendors and keep our own business as strong as possible to weather this storm,” Brewster said. “We hope to continue to support our craft community for years to come.”

For more details on the Summer Virtual Art Star Craft Bazaar, follow @artstarphilly on Instagram or visit artstarphilly.myshopify.com.

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