Art on the Block – Bringing Local Makers and Crafters to their Hometown Roots

By Tiffany Cooke

The Salem Apothecary hosts several events throughout the year, bringing in new people for new reasons. On Wednesday, their month-long pop-up shop for local vendors kicked off.

Four year ago, Rebecca Marshall and her associates at the Salem Apothecary searched for a new springtime event to host. After brainstorming new ideas, they found their inspiration – Etsy. From knowing people who sold things on Esty, Marshall and the Apothecary staff created an event for these people to showcase their talents and passions.

This event is called Art on the Block. This is its second year taking place in July instead of spring after they found July called for more action and spring got too busy to meet Art on the Block’s needs.

Outside the Apothecary’s doors, upcoming vendors are advertised to encourage people walking the Square to come inside.

Chosen vendors are people known in the community that create and sell art, clothing, jewelry, signs, and more through online markets. New vendors are added as they are discovered. While some are local, others are Washington County natives who moved away and want to reconnect with their roots.

For these vendors, Art on the Block is a chance for them to come back to their hometown, while offering an opportunity for them to sell their pieces to old friends and new faces.

“They don’t have an outlet,” Marshall said. “It’s an opportunity for them to see people face to face and for buyers to see the products in person, not just online.”

Beyond helping passionate artists, crafters, and makers and encouraging an art appreciation in the community, the Salem Apothecary hopes Art on the Block will bring more people in to see the store’s wide selection beyond medical needs.

“It circles traffic,” Marshall said. “People come for Art on the Block and then see something they like or something they want to buy as a gift.”

Art on the Block will be held each Wednesday in July, featuring 2 artists each week. For the first Wednesday of Art on the Block, Julie Barnett of Freckles & Blondie and Sarah Kruer of Imy’s Joy displayed their work on tables set up inside the store.

Each of these artists has their own story, their own reason for creating, and their own connection to and love for the Washington County community.

While their time at Art on the Block is over, these two artists still have a lot to share about their motives and experiences.

Julie Barnett

In 2008, Barnett started making jewelry while living in Huntsville, AL. Eight years later she was back in Indiana, running her business under the name Freckles & Blondie – named after her two dogs.

Barnett was raised in Salem and moved to Alabama when her husband’s job took them there. They couldn’t stay away, though.

“We never felt a sense of home in any city like we did in Salem,” Barnett said. “All our family and friends are still here so it just feels like home.”

To Barnett, Art on the Block is a chance to reconnect to her hometown, making her feel as though everything has come back “full circle.” Not to mention, Barnett admires the support she receives from the Apothecary that larger stores don’t provide.

“Rebecca [Marshall] has a huge heart,” Barnett said. “She loves to see all of us bring our handmade and one of a kind items in.”

Sarah Kruer

Kruer, drawn to creating and hand lettering, found she needed a creative outlet. Eight years ago, she began making signs for her and her friends’ homes, and the business took off from there. Her first market opened seven years ago under the name Imy’s Joy – a tribute to her grandmother, Imogene.

Kruer said that her grandmother always wanted to share good and happiness with others, and this became the mission for the business. She wants to spread this same good to all her customers through encouraging signs, shirts, and more.

She grew up in Salem and is now living in Indianapolis, so Kruer is always excited to return to her hometown, especially when she does it to share her passion with other Salem natives.

“It’s like a reunion,” Kruer said. “It’s so fun reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones through Imy’s Joy as well.”

Like Barnett, Kruer noted the importance of setting up in a supportive location with a supportive staff.

“I really appreciate and love how supportive Rebecca [Marshall] is of small, handmade businesses,” she said.

Beyond their connection to Salem as their hometown, both Barnett and Kruer have a connection to the Apothecary through Marshall herself.

Barnett has been a close friend of Marshall’s daughter, Marah, since grade school. Kruer, on the other hand, worked at the Salem Apothecary when she was in high school. Because of this, coming back to Salem and to the Apothecary brings back old memories while creating new ones.

Barnett shared a laugh with her friend while they sold items side by side.

Meanwhile, those shopping have a chance to explore new, creative products that can’t be found in store while seeing all the Apothecary has to offer by stopping by the Soda Fountain for a treat.

Marshall, too, looks forward to the event each year, as she loves to see what the vendors have to offer.

“I’m always excited to see the new stuff they have made,” Marshall said. “I’m amazed with how they come up with new items every time.”

There are 2 more Art on the Block events this month, taking place Wednesday July 17 and 24. The vendors are present from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. On July 17, Brandi Abernathy of Barnwood, Burlap, & Bows and MJ Hamil of MJH Weaving are selling their creations. Lakin Jones of Urban Return and Elizabeth Owsley of Liz’s Indiana Attic will set up on July 24.

Each of them also have a story and passion to spread, and their own special hometown roots and connection to the Salem community.

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