By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau
SLIDELL – The local artists who are displaying their works at the “MartketPlace” believe this holiday season could be the time to put the Olde Towne business on the map.
The MartketPlace—a catchy twist on the usual word—was created in the downstairs portion of the new East St. Tammany Chamber office space. The Slidell Chamber purchased the historic building at 1808 Front Street over two years ago, always having a plan to offer local artists a great venue to display their work.
The MartketPlace is home to over 30 local artists, all who have to reside in St. Tammany Parish, and has achieved a twofold purpose by giving “starving artists” a low-priced public location to show off their work, and also giving area residents a place to find truly local, unique art in one location.
Caron Sharpe, manage for the MartketPlace, said it was always the idea from her daughter, Chamber CEO Dawn Sharpe, to purchase the historic building to achieve two goals.
“Dawn used to talk to us about the idea of buying the building for the Chamber and wondered if it was too big of a dream,” Caron said. “But it has turned out to be a great thing.”
Now only does the Chamber operate from the entire top floor of the beautiful renovated building, which maintained the wood floors and original architecture, but now the local art world has a place to display their goods.
“We hope this Christmas season is when even more people discover all the great art here,” Caron said.
The MartketPlace has an incredible array of art, but even much more than pictures that are drawn or painted. There is handmade pottery, stained glass, crocheted items, custom made jewelry, gift items, photography, books, cards and more. Items are available for as low as $5.
Three well-known local artists—Adam Sambola, Kelly Landrum Hammell and Connie Borne—are the three anchor artists who have rented the three large spaces. Otherwise, artists can rent a small wall to hang pictures or other items for sale, and they can have their work available for sale for as little as $36 a quarter or up to $90 a quarter, depending how much space they want to rent.
“It’s incredibly inexpensive to display your work here, but that was always the idea,” Caron said. “Many local artists really are kind of like starving artists—most of them are not making a huge amount of money from their art, but they still want to sell some of it and get it in front of the public.
“We are offering them a place to do it here at a very good price,” she added.
Caron said they have had a steady waiting list of artists wanting to get into the MartketPlace.
“We are really happy with how this has turned out,” Dawn Sharpe said. “We love bringing a historical landmark back into commerce in Slidell, especially since we see this as the gateway to Olde Towne.”
The only drawback for the MartketPlace is that many people are still learning that there is such a spot in Slidell. But since the Camellia Market started holding their Saturday gathering in the Chamber parking lot it is increasing the visibility of the location and gaining new clients every week.
The MartketPlace also includes a coffee shop area, however, Dawn admits it has been a challenge finding the right tenant to operate the already fully equipped kitchen area. She is still looking for a tenant who wants to set up a small food and drink area there.
“We see this as a gathering place for folks, not to mention we offer a community spot for business meetings or groups whether upstairs or downstairs, and that includes free WIFI,” Dawn said. “It has really turned out the way we hoped and we’re expecting the popularity of the MartketPlace to only improve with time.”
Caron said the numbers for sales among the artists has steadily improved every month since they opened and they expect this holiday season to be the best yet.
An artist herself since a young age, Caron has a small spot with her own paintings and said the position as manager there couldn’t be more perfect for her since she had a professional background in department store displays, retail and artwork.
“I love people and getting to be here almost every day is wonderful,” she said. “We have seen people from out-of-state come here as a destination stop. We see the popularity growing every month.”
The MartketPlace is open from 10 to 5 Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday when the Camellia City Market is held outside.