All Things Considered

'I love supporting my people'

Market for Black, Indigenous and brown artists fosters sense of community

A collection of products on a display table.
Jewelry made by artist Candida Gonzalez of Las Ranas Jewelry.
Jon Collins | MPR News

Arnée Martin has been making art — drawing, painting and doing needlework —  for as long as she can remember. But it’s only in the last three years that she started to sell some of the things she made online and at pop-up sales.

Martin describes herself as Afro-Indigenous and said some of the events she’s sold her art at haven’t always been diverse or accessible. 

“These events feed me more,” she said, as she sat behind her table at last week’s Black & Indigenous & Brown Makers Market in north Minneapolis. “When it’s on the computer it’s just typing and pictures, but here you actually get to talk to people.”

Craft and maker markets give artists an opportunity to not only sell their work, but to gather with one another. In the Twin Cities, a new group is hosting events meant explicitly to share the work of Black, Indigenous and brown artists. 

Marcellina Reis, who organized the event, is a jewelry designer and metalsmith who got more serious about her art in the last year. 

“Through the pandemic, it was quarantine time,” Reis said, “I bought some tools with my stimulus check, and now we’re here.” 

A woman speaks to two customers.
Market organizer Marcellina Reis shows customers her work through Studio Ebunoluwa.
Jon Collins | MPR News

Reis, who identifies as Black and of Nigerian descent, said she started to notice the power of events that focused on the art of non-white people. She said some artists who hadn’t felt comfortable at other events could feel more secure because organizers could explicitly address any racist behavior. 

But Reis said makers markets that highlight the work of Black, Indigenous and artists of color could serve as an example for the next generation of artists. 

“Even if it’s not turning it into a business at all, even if it’s just to release energy or to heal, that’s something I think is super exciting, a really nice thing to see, a bunch of Black, Indigenous and brown creative people in one space and being like, ‘Wow this is something we can all do,’” Reis said. 

One of those future artists might be Candace Mitchum. She doesn’t normally go to craft or maker markets, although she does crochet. She said she saw an ad for the event on Instagram and was drawn to the event.

“It’s just super great they’re all Black and all people of color,” Mitchum said. “I just love that, and I love supporting my people.”

Candida Gonzalez makes jewelry that they say is all about “transformation” and color inspired by their Puerto Rican heritage. Their table is filled with earrings in the shape of snakes or hearts bursting with sunbursts. 

They sell lots of their work at pop-up markets and said the events focused on Black, Indigenous and artists of color just feel more inclusive and nourishing.  

A person stands behind a collection of products on a display table.
Artist Candida Gonzalez of Las Ranas Jewelry selling their art at the Black & Indigenous & Brown Makers Market at La Doña Cerveceria in Minneapolis.
Jon Collins | MPR News

“I love selling in the Twin Cities. I think that the Twin Cities more than any other place I’ve been has people who really want to get out and support local artists, especially support local BIPOC artists,” Gonzalez said. “It feels like a really great environment to be an artist and to sell in.“

Gonzalez’s day job is as a public arts consultant, but in the last year, making art has really helped their family make ends meet. 

“Over the pandemic, this really exploded into more than half-time work for me, as all my other work was canceled and moved online. This really was what was paying my bills, so I’m grateful that I had it,” they said.  

Maricella Xiong is another young artist who was drawn to the event. She shreds up old meeting notes and fliers, soaks them and then remolds them into special paper that she infuses with scents and tiny pollinator seeds: milkweed, blue vervain and milkweed. 

“Minnesota is actually in a pollinator shortage,” Xiong said. “That was one of the seeds that was planted in my mind to get this started.” 

Xiong’s handmade journals and notebooks can also be planted after they are used. 

“It’s such a beautiful way to give back to the Earth,” Xiong said. “You can write love letters on the paper, then rip it up and then rip it up and bring it back to the Earth that way, and show your appreciation and gratitude.”

The next Black & Indigenous & Brown Makers Market is scheduled Saturday evening at Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center in St. Paul.  

This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment's Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.