Niagara Gazette — Jon Bender creates art prints out of cereal boxes, toothpaste boxes, granola and candy wrappers and other packaging material.
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world,” is written out of packaging and circulates a round green- and blue-colored planet earth on one of Bender’s mosaic collages.
Before last summer, Bender, who grew up in Tonawanda and now works as an art teacher in the Kenmore-Tonawanda School District, sold his artwork mostly online. This summer, he joins approximately 65 other local vendors who are selling their wares at the Buffalo Saturday Artisan Market at Canalside each week.
“At some of the other bigger festivals, a lot of the people aren’t from the area,” Bender said. “(The market) is important to me personally because it was new (last year) and we were both starting off at the same time. I liked that aspect of it. It can only grow from there.”
The season began May 18 and will end on Sept. 28.
Julie Leatherbarrow, the founder and director of the market, has dreamt of creating it since 2004.
She left Buffalo in 1994 and traveled up and down the East Coast and throughout the Midwest. A Buffalo State College alumna who graduated with an English degree, Leatherbarrow was introduced to the art world of glass blowing in 1996 when she moved to Eugene, Ore.
Thereafter, she traveled selling glass art at street fairs, concerts, galleries and artisan markets around the country. She returned to Buffalo in 2004 determined to mimic what she saw at those artisan markets, where artists utilized their city’s natural landscape as a background for a market to sell their work.
The market creates economic and social opportunities in Buffalo, said Leatherbarrow, who runs the show with her co-director Robin Lenhard.
About 30 artists from Buffalo, and a few from Rochester, sell their art at the market per week. Local Buffalo bands perform, and artists and musicians have opportunities to work.
The market, which is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., also offers a social setting as the “art-friendly” and “family-friendly” scene allows family and friends to gather by the water.
The Eugene, Oregon’s Saturday Market, from which Leatherbarrow borrowed her ideas, had 28 artists participate in its first year 31 years ago. Now, over 250 artists attend weekly from March to November, Leatherbarrow said.
Bender said there is no one artist alike at the Buffalo Artisan Market.
“There’s a few potters, Julie makes glassware and jewelry, there’s some candles and some knitted stuff, there was a photographer or two, graphic designers who do prints and cards and signage, a guy who made guitars out of cigar boxes,” Bender recalled from last year. “It’s a pretty big variety of stuff.”
Leatherbarrow hopes the market becomes a “footprint for local development” in Buffalo. She wants the artists and musicians to guide future development to Buffalo’s waterfront and throughout the city.
She hopes as her kids grow up and as other young people go to the market with their families that they’ll see they can make a living as an artist or musician while staying a part of their community.
“Those kids who grow up here, they’ll want to stay here,” Leatherbarrow said. “They’ll want to come up with innovative and creative ideas and implement them into their community.”