Mart seeks to sell Station North

Browsers, vendors brave the chilly weather at flea market designed to boost arts district

April 08, 2007|By Rona Marech | Rona Marech,Sun reporter

It was a miserable day for a flea market - tree blossoms and snowflakes mingled, and potted tulips tilted in the wind. The vendors who showed up wrapped themselves in blankets and sipped hot coffee to keep warm. The crowd was a bit sparse.

But no one seemed to seriously mind the bitter weather, and neighborhood enthusiasts were positively exuberant at the Station North Flea Market, a community event intended to boost the growing arts district behind Pennsylvania Station.

Bundled-up visitors browsed the curious wares - rabbit figurines, a furry purse, snow globes, old copies of Life magazine, a Polaroid camera, in-line skates, cross country skis, chess sets, T-shirts, Easter egg cookies, books, videos, tiki mugs and shimmery dresses. They tried on jewelry. They flipped through boxes of $1 books and videos. They bought glass ashtrays, dusty vinyl records, flip-flops and hot dogs.

And shoppers and vendors alike crowed about the changing neighborhood and their dreams for this artist-packed sliver of the city.

`This is quite the little arts hub. ... It's really bumping," said Emily C-D, an artist who will start work soon on a neighborhood mural and plans to show some of her work at a gallery here this month. "I'm excited for that because it feels like part of a movement."

That's the idea. A couple of years ago, these 25 blocks received a designation - the Station North Arts and Entertainment District - and little by little, artists, galleries, cafes, restaurants, theaters and music venues have transformed the once-moribund area.

The neighborhood is home to, among others, Load of Fun, a gallery, music venue and artists' studios; Westnorth Studio, a gallery; Station North Arts Cafe and Gallery; Tapas Teatro; Sofi's Crepes; the Charles Theatre; and Everyman Theatre. A jazz venue is going in soon, and Metro Gallery is opening in June.

"People are actually sitting out on the sidewalks and eating in a neighborhood that some years ago, they wouldn't have dared to come to," said Sherwin Mark, a Maryland Institute College of Art teacher, flea market organizer and founder of Load of Fun. People looked at him as if he were crazy when he told them he was opening a space on West North Avenue, he said, but now they are starting to see this is a viable place for people to live, work and make art.

The flea market was dreamed up last year as another way to show off the community. A potpourri of art, junk, jewelry, food, clothes and trinkets, the market will take place the first Saturday of each month through October. By then, depending on interest, there might be two or even three parking lots filled with vendors, Mark said.

That might sound ambitious, but almost 40 vendors showed up despite the cold yesterday, and by noon, Mark had collected 28 names - passers-by and shoppers who wanted to participate in next month's event.

Michael Pyatt, who cleans streets in the neighborhood, stopped by and picked up two 50-cent vinyl albums - Three Dog Night and Carole King - and two hot dogs during his lunch break.

"There's a big change here. I see more and more people starting to flock back to the neighborhood. It's more vibrant," he said. He looked around at the colorful piles. "This is very good for the community."

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