Celebrating art in downtown Alex

Two Alexandria women teamed up to create Saturday Art Market


BY JIM PALMER

Scene from one of the nine Saturday Art Markets held late last summer at Big Ole Park. This year, Saturday Art Market will offered every Saturday between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Each Saturday will have new musicians/entertainers, along with different art vendors and kids’ activities. New this year will be food trucks on site, as well as a new patio area for the musicians. Contributed photo

For most of their lives, Sandy Susag and Mimi Seykora, both of Alexandria, have worked tirelessly to celebrate and promote the arts in the city of Alexandria. Last year, the two joined forces to plan and launch a new venture called the Saturday Art Market, which gives locals and visitors an opportunity to connect with local artists, shop their offerings, and enjoy live music at Big Ole Park in Alexandria.


“Myself and several others in the community have wanted to have some kind of artistic endeavor for public exposure to arts here in Alexandria,” said Susag, who has been president of the Alexandria Area Arts Association and involved in several art-related area projects over the years. “We proposed some ideas to the city a few years ago about a little art village, but that idea didn’t go very far. I don’t think the city saw the vision or the feasibility, and so the idea just sat there.”


But just as that idea was fizzling, a new idea was born.


“This time, I joined forces with Mimi, and we developed this new idea,” said Susag.


Seykora, a potter and board member of the Alexandria Art Guild with a background in both education and sales (Echo Press), was a good addition to the team. Not only was enthusiastic about the concept, she had 18 years experience running Art in the Park, a popular fixture in Alexandria the last weekend in July.


“I have been trying to get more art exposure and art activities and promote the arts in Alexandria for abut 30 years,” said Seykora. “I really like the educational aspect (of the Market) and the sharing of the arts. And I also like giving artists the opportunity to promote their works and sell them. Art is so good for all people. It’s good for people dealing with mental health issues or for people who just want time to try something new, and to experiment and play.”


Susag and Seykora wanted to add music and entertainment to the Saturday Art Market, so they approached Bill Glade, a retired doctor, who has performed on the Andria Theatre stage and currently performs with another retired doctor, John Emblom, in a band called ParaDocx.


The group approached the city of Alexandria last year with the idea. The city commissioners gave them the green light to offer the Saturday Art Market late last summer on an “experimental basis” at Big Ole Park on the north end of Broadway in Alexandria, right next to the Alexandria Farmers Market. After a nine-week successful run, the city was sold. The city not only gave their full support verbally, they also had a permanent 15x15 foot brick patio with electricity and storage build at the park to help support the group and the musicians who play there.


The Saturday Art Market kicks off the 2022 campaign on Saturday, May 28, and runs every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Sept. 3.


Multiple vendors have committed to appear throughout the summer.


“We continue to look for new artists and new vendors,” said Seykora. “We would love to have anyone who wants to do kids activities, paint, knit, read poetry, anything that has to do with the arts. We are all inclusive in the arts. We are looking for anyone who is looking to express themselves creatively. The only groups we are not looking for are those who want to just promote their business or club. This is not a promotional event.”


Musicians and performers have been lined up for the entire 15-week run, and each week will have a different sound.

Contributed photo

“We do everything from light rock’n rollers to old style country to solo guitarists to folk music to Irish players to jazz,” said Glade. “I tried to get a wide spectrum of artists so it was different every time you went down there.”


In addition to music, the Andria Theatre will also offer a performance on one of the days, and a juggler may perform one Saturday, too.


Donations from the community helped get Saturday Art Market up and running and they have also allowed the musicians to receive payment for performing this year. Last year, the musicians volunteered their time and talents. Glade said many of the musicians get paid much less than they would performing elsewhere, but the artists were willing to play for less because they believed in the new Saturday Art Market.


Saturday Art Market is also not a fundraising event.


“It is purely for the promotion and love of the arts,” said Susag. “None of us get paid for doing this.”


One addition to the Saturday Art Market this year will be the addition of food trucks to Big Ole Park.


“So people can go to the Farmers Market, grab some lunch, and check out the Saturday Art Market,” said Susag.


“And every Saturday is going to be a little different down there, which really makes it fun and exciting,” said Seykora. “Last year, I would have to say, I really felt it was magical down there. With the music playing, the people walking around and artists in their booths, and the food. I just thought, ‘this is really special, and there is something very unique about this.’ It was a feeling that I got that I haven’t got from any other art venue.”


Susag, Seykora, and Glade would like to thank the City of Alexandria, the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce (with special thanks to Tara Bitzan), the Alexandria Downtown Merchants Association, and the community for their support of the Saturday Art Market. They also want to thank the Alexandria Farmers Market for their willingness to collaborate and share the space at Big Ole Park.


To learn more about the Saturday Art Market and to see a list of the scheduled musicians and entertainers, visit the Saturday Art Market Facebook page.


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