One chilly and rainy night forty years ago, Bruce Willenzik, an employee at the Armadillo World Headquarters, was chatting with a young singer named Lucinda Williams when the topic turned to the artists who made their livings selling their wares outside on the Drag. As Willenzik remembers it, Williams remarked "It's too bad those artists don't have a warm dry place like this to sell in."
Those words inspired Willenzik to provide just such a space for local artists, in the form of a holiday art show at the Armadillo. "Once we got it going, it was the quintessential Armadillo event," Willenzik says. "It allowed us to have winter payroll, it allowed us to broaden our cultural reach, and it gave us something we'd never done before: working with a different type of artist, not just musicians."
Though he was instrumental in creating the Bazaar, Willenzik is reluctant to call himself the event's founder. Instead, he says, "I was the instigator, and then it was founded pretty much by committee after that."
A few years after the Bazaar started, the Armadillo itself closed its doors. Rather than end the show, though, the folks behind the Bazaar moved to a new location, and then another new location after that, before settling down at the Palmer Events Center.
Now forty years old, the Bazaar is a bona fide Austin holiday tradition. This year, some 160 artists will participate in the bazaar, and dozens of musicians will also be performing throughout the ten day event (for a full schedule of performers, check out the bazaar's website).