CULTIVATING CREATIVITY: New downtown Bazaar connects artists with community

By Fiona Campbell/Quinte Arts Council

While storefronts have been forced to shutter due to the pandemic, one local artist who is passionate about unique and one-of-a kind sees opportunity in the shift toward buying local.

Kaya Pereira is the owner/operator behind the soon-to-open Bazaar Artisan Market in downtown Belleville. It’s a place for artists from Toronto to Ottawa across all disciplines (photographers, painters, potters, jewellers, textile and fibre artists, and so much more) to build their business while creating connections with other artists and the public. It’s a bazaar in the truest sense of the word: its merlot and mustard-coloured walls evoke a Moroccan vibe while displaying an eclectic and eye-catching array of handcrafted goods.

But why now?

“I find there is a big boom with handmade. COVID was a bit like a wildfire in terms of new growth. We’re at home, we’re isolated: people need to have hobbies,” says Pereira.

There’s also the “shop local” movement that encourages supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs during these difficult times.

“It’s really tying back into the traditional way of doing business… it’s a local business revival.”

Belleville-born Pereira, who comes from a fine arts family and is an artist herself, working in watercolour, ink, acrylic and mixed media, couples her creative experience and love of art with a decade of working in sales.

“For a lot of artists, what we’re lacking is a sense of direction with the business aspect. It’s just not where our minds are at. We’re into creating and that whole organic spectrum,” she says. “I have tied together both sides of my brain. I have been an artist since birth and I went to school for business sales and marketing.”

The model for the business is simple and geared toward putting as much money into the pockets of participating vendors: artists purchase a four-week membership (prices start at $160 + HST) and select either a 3’ or 4’ wide wall rental space, with or without a shelf unit. In return, Pereira offers in-store sales support (the shop is open six days a week), promotion and brand building on social media, and space to host workshops. A website is currently under development and vendors will soon be able to sell online. The best part: artists set their own prices and receive 100 per cent of the revenue.

While the walls are now full with the work of 30 artists, Pereira is also working on creating a program for youth under age 18 to showcase their work and build their skills as an entrepreneur.

When asked if setting up shop in downtown Belleville was part of her vision for the space, she says, “Always. I’m a local girl. I’m very downtown and local business centric. I really feel that connecting creates that sense of engagement that we need to build community.”

The soft opening for the Bazaar Artisan Market is October 5 at 318 Front St., Belleville. Store hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, to read profiles of featured artists and see some gorgeous eye candy, check out Bazaar Artisan Market on Facebook and Instagram.