Underground art festival unites local talent

The Catacombs Art Market is in its first year.

Artlandish Art Gallery will host an underground art market Friday and Saturday — no, really, it's underground.

The gallery provides unexpectedly ample space beneath the floorboards of the century-old building on Walnut Street. Normally, this space is rented out to artists as studios where they can create their work, but this weekend it will house the Catacombs Art Market.

Owner Lisa Bartlett explained the basement was once used as storage for a railroad company and makes for a one-of-a-kind space to house an art festival.

“There were once railroad tracks that went through to store cars, and there are tunnels that go from building to building,” she said. “It’s just a really interesting and unique festival especially because of its location.”

Bartlett began the Catacombs Art Market earlier this year and plans to host five markets annually. The art market will be held this weekend in conjunction with the North Village Holiday Market. Also participating in the holiday market are The Bead Gallery, Sven’s Kafe & Gallery and Orr Street Art Studios.

“There’s a huge diverse collection of artists, artworks and mediums,” she said. “We have a film company, three photographers, six mixed media artists, mosaic artists and a jewelry store, as well as soap makers, potters, glass blowers and more.”

The cellar of Artlandish Gallery, where the event is to be held, is a winding labyrinth of eclectic art, including statues, paintings and empty space waiting to be filled by stands and tables for the festival.

“When this place is decorated, it looks great,” Bartlett said. “We’ve been sold out of space for months and months -- we really use every nook and cranny.”

She said this festival is different than past art markets, because it is more geared toward the holiday season and finding irreplaceable gifts for loved ones.

“Uniqueness is something that has kind of become obsolete in our society,” she said. “It’s so much better to buy from someone who is passionate about what they have made, rather than buying from a sour sales clerk at a major department store.”

Local artist Kristi Mott willl sell her homemade bath products and accessories in the art market for the third time this year. She said she enjoys participating in the festival because of the variety of art it boasts in each market.

“There is a lot more on the art side of things that you don’t get at all festivals and fairs,” she said. “ I think at this market you get a lot of the higher-end art, as well as do-it-yourself arts and crafts.”

Mott said the festival provides an opportunity for MU students to become familiarized with local artists.

“It’s a good representation of the local community,” she said. “Students can see the variety of art that is out there.”

Domestic artist Karina Koji has sold artful wares from all-natural, homemade jam to toys for pets at this market, and said the welcoming atmosphere and support for local business keep her coming back.

“It’s very inspiring to see all kinds of artists there,” she said. “It’s not all fine art and expensive paintings, there’s domestic art like mine too.”

Koji said it’s beneficial to the artists and the community to shop local.

“All the money you spend on these gifts is going right back into the community,” she said. “Chances are, if people are doing shopping at the market, they’ll eat at restaurants downtown and the businesses will stimulate each other. It’s wonderful to keep all that money in Columbia.”

For Koji, the best part of the art market is maintaining the holiday spirit of giving.

“I think everyone is always looking for that perfect gift that nobody else has,” she said. “If you buy your gifts at the mall you aren’t going to know who created it. Gifts bought here are different because you know the artist made it with care and that is a unique feeling.”

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