Dustbowl Arts Market brings ‘sexy craft fair’ to Campus Corner: story + photo essay
by Gene Perry
The Dustbowl Arts Market was born from a melding of minds and ideas. The minds belong to Reese Truesdell, Dana Fisher, and Katie Huskerson, who became friends as students at the University of Oklahoma. The first idea came when Reese and Dana moved to New York City.
“I saw how excited people got about the Brooklyn flea market,” Truesdell said. Every weekend, he saw the open-air market attract more than 100,000 people.
Eventually they moved back to Oklahoma. “Something about Oklahoma draws you back,” Truesdell said. “You can do whatever you want to do without having to break yourself.”
Today Truesdell owns and operates The Wild Hare Beadery on Campus Corner. Inspired by what he saw in New York, he knew there was potential for a craft market in Norman.
“The people of Norman are poised for something like this to happen,” he said.
The other motivation was to turn Campus Corner into a pedestrian area, to make it “more of a destination rather than just somewhere to pass through.” They knew people might not agree to do away with parking and traffic immediately, but they could at least show public response to a pedestrian market.
Truesdell said that instead of a continuous pedestrian market, they would encourage Campus Corner to have one every year, then maybe twice a year, monthly, or every weekend.
To make it happen they brought in more than 60 local and regional artists to sell original, hand-made crafts, including photos, paintings, jewelry, pottery, and clothing. They also booked local musicians to play throughout the day and closed down Buchanan Street to cars.
“There’s so much untapped talent, but it’s unorganized for the most part,” Truesdell said. “We were excited about having a big party together.”
He said they were aiming for a “sexy craft fair” atmosphere that would attract a younger crowd as well as moms, grandparents, and children. “We want to make it seem cool to make hand-made crafts.”
One participating artist was Lana Williams, a recent OU graduate. She said this was her first art fair, and everyone was very supportive.
“It’s much better than galleries,” Williams said. “Foot traffic means a lot more people see your work. Even if they don’t buy anything, it’s good to get people looking at it.”
Truesdell said the project has drawn support from all over Norman, including downtown and Campus Corner. The Firehouse Art Center on Flood Ave. helped collect donations.
“Something like this wouldn’t have happened without their support,” Truesdell said. “I’m extremely grateful for the friendships that have come from this.”