For years I put off all my Christmas shopping until the last minute. Unfortunately, that usually meant I paid too much money for mediocre gifts that didn’t impress anyone. It’s a familiar story, I think, but thankfully for me that all changed a few years ago when I discovered the Beehive Bazaar.
Provo’s own Beehive Bazaar is a biannual event that provides local artists and crafters a venue to showcase and sell their work. Fortunately for holiday shoppers, it begins this Thursday and continues through Saturday. It also provides a more meaningful shopping experience — without the crowds and generic merchandise in the malls — that promises handmade crafts, custom clothing, delicious food and more. Of course that translates into finding better Christmas presents, but it also means that shopping isn’t just about buying stuff. Instead, it’s a way to come together as a community, meet the person who actually made what you’re buying, and get something that is truly one of a kind.
The Beehive Bazaar began in 2004 and is currently housed in the Women’s Cultural Center at 310 W 500 N. Though it initially took place in different people’s homes, Duane Call, one of the event’s organizers, said that he and others were drawn to the center’s “history of providing a home for women’s cultural events and felt the Bazaar was a great way to continue to celebrate the art culture in Utah Valley.” One benefit of the move is that the Bazaar has been able to expand over the years and the upcoming event will be the biggest yet with 60 venders.
This fall, as usual, the Bazaar received hundreds of applications from potential venders. Artists’ work was chosen after being evaluated by a series of criteria that included being handmade, high quality and unique. Call also said that in choosing artists they “like to provide a healthy mix of Bazaar veterans as well as plenty of room for fresh talent; this helps keep an air of familiarity and community at the event while always promising plenty of surprises.”
While the Beehive Bazaar is, in the most basic sense, a temporary market, its organizers see it more as a way to emphasize local culture. As Call put it, “an evening at the Bazaar is so much more than a shopping spree — it’s a cultural and social celebration. Where else can you be exposed to amazing art, see all your friends, support the local economy, build local culture and walk out with a bag full of to-die-for delights?”
Local artist and long-time Bazaar vender Ashley Christiansen also points out that it’s a unique experience because “there is a fun energy and excitement at the Bazaar that you can’t find in a department store or at the mall. I love the face-to-face contact and conversation, and being able to put a person to the items you bring into your home.”
Ultimately then, the Beehive Bazaar does double duty: it provides a valuable service (and, I’m told, a lively party on Thursday night) where people can come and find things they need, while also investing in the worthwhile and lasting effects of relationships, art and culture. As Christiansen observed, “communities change when we recognize each other as people with unique things to offer one another.” Thankfully, the Beehive Bazaar is making that happen.
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