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'This intersection of art and commerce': The Blue Genie Art Bazaar celebrates its 22nd year

Dana Younger at the Blue Genie Art Bazaar
Michael Lee
Dana Younger at the Blue Genie Art Bazaar

Now in its 22nd year, the Blue Genie Art Bazaar began in 2001 almost on a whim, when the members of the Blue Genie Art Industries shop decided to put up some clip lights and open a pop-up shop during the holiday season, selling a handful of items made by employees. More than two decades later, the bazaar has become an Austin institution, featuring giftable works of art from some 200 artists every holiday season (along with a year-round online shop and, for the first time in 2021, a spring show as well).

Dana Younger, one of the founding partners of the bazaar, says that while the show is much larger now, it still retains the same spirit it’s always had. “This show is so much about community,” he says. “It is about the community of artists and the community of art supporters in Austin coming together, you know, at this intersection of art and commerce and community. And we’re very grateful to get to hold this space.”

That meeting of art and commerce has always been at the heart of the Blue Genie Art Bazaar. Younger and his partners envision the show as an opportunity for artists to reach a greater audience at peak gift-giving (and gift-buying) season as well as a way to give consumers a place to buy handmade, locally-crafted items instead of mass-produced gifts.

“It’s about the tradition of families and art supporters coming together and having their holiday look-around when people come into to town, or with their spouses and kids,” he says. “It’s about the tradition of artists getting to come together in a community of artists and visit with each other and see each other each year. And it’s so much about an opportunity for the artists to show what they’ve been up to and to make a few bucks to help support their creative endeavors.”

In 2020 and 2021, the bazaar had to follow stricter covid rules, which meant not just enforcing mask mandates, but also featuring fewer artists to make more room for patrons to keep a safe distance. This year, things are pretty much back to the way they were in 2019 and before, which means there’s room for all 200 artists to show their wares again. And as in years past, there are a lot of returning artists and also dozens making their Blue Genie debut. “We have fifty new artists [this year], which is really exciting,” Younger says.

After spending every holiday season of the millennium at the bazaar, Younger says he’s still excited for it every Christmas. “It’s just really fun to see what people are up to,” he says. “There’s so much creative energy in this town, and this is a great place to really see a wonderful cross-section of all of that. So it’s just fun. It’s an exciting time of year, it’s got a lot of energy, and it’s just… it’s energizing to be here.”

The Blue Genie Art Bazaar is open every day through Christmas Eve.

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