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Arts Market Reflects Old, New Shaw

By Sarafina Wright, Howard University New Service
On February 12, 2015

Artist at the Shaw Arts,Crafts & Fashion Market sits with his original piece of DC legend Chuck Brown.

WASHINGTON – Lauren Wagner was just strolling down the street with no particular destination when she came upon the corner of Georgia and Florida avenues in northwest Washington and something caught her eye and ear.

“I was walking down the street past the Metro PCS store playing the “Go Go” music,” the Shaw neighborhood resident said.  “That just made me feel good. The vibe was there and I walked past this place, and I definitely wanted to check it out.”

So, like so many residents recently, she visited the Shaw Arts, Crafts & Fashion Market, a colorful, creative mixture of arts and crafts that has taken hold in what until recently was a vacant building.

It is now filled with visual artists like T.H. Gomillion and Nessar Jahanbin, crafts people, clothing designers and merchants with novelty items, like Margaret Harris, the owner of Noccasion Gifts.

“I was a big bath and body works shopper,” Harris said.  “I found that I always running out of soap way before the lotion. So I said let me make my own soap.”

So, she has packaged scrubs, soaps, lotions and body butters for the scores of customers wandering through an array of products. 

Body butters, scrubs, and soaps from Noccasion Gifts

Harris said what makes her products unique is that they have antiseptic ingredients, essential oils that lift the user’s spirits and relieves aches and pains. Her bestseller, she said, far is the oatmeal, blueberry soap, which smells exactly how it sounds

The market began in December as a place for artist and artisans to display and sell their work during the holiday season, but residents liked it so much that the organizers decided to extend it indefinitely.

The new market, located at 651 Florida Ave. NW, is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.   Every Friday, the market host “Art Rave” where there is a fashion show and live art demonstrations from 7 p.m. to midnight.

Kenneth David, who has worked repeatedly with such markets in the District, said he believes the market has been successful because of what it brings to the community and the new people moving into the neighborhood from across the region

“These people are from Iowa, Nebraska and so on, and they are leaving an impact on the area. There is all these new things popping up to accommodate them, but any good neighborhood needs community and culture to survive.”

Ben Nigh, another of the merchants, sells Bonsai trees, miniature trees as old as 25 years old. 

Bonsai trees as old as 25 years.

They are showcased with tags, such as the Japanese juniper, Chinese elm, Texas ebony, African boxwood and Ponytail palm.

“The Bonsai trees have amazing powers,” Nigh said.  “They bring peace, good luck, they’re soothing and they are good for the environment,” says owner Ben Nigh.

Nigh said he came to Shaw in part because he has been working with David for the past five years.

“He’s a great businessman,” he said.  “So I keep coming back.”

David knows that there is no promise that the market can remain in an area that is superheated with developers and retailers hungry for new space to place housing and businesses.

“Right now we’re fine and we plan to be here for a while,” he said, “but this is a great space and great location and you never know when we’ll be priced out, or if some developer just takes over the space.”

Customer Pamela Xing, who bought soap from Harris, is one who hopes the fair stays.

“I bought some soaps from her, because they smell amazing,” Xing said.  “I love the idea of homemade things.”

 

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