The day of the art market actually started days before hand. The hardworking staff of AICH had done a mock layout of the space at 39 Eldridge, to ensure there would be enough space for the vendors and after a good deal of sweat and grit, it turns out, yeah, there was room. For not only vendors, but a stage, and a cafe lounge area! Yay. Unfortunately, we knew it’d have to come down, and that we’d have to set it all back up again, but reaching the halfway point of actualizing an event motivated everyone to make it happen all the more.
So on the day before the Market, the staff arranged the space again, and while that was easy and quick enough from practice, we were faced with the challenge of creating a space that appeals to the winter holidays, without the overt trappings of Settler holidays. We needed to Decolonize Winter, and I’m proud to say, Mission Accomplished.
The visual experience started at the ground floor, where in the middle of Chinatown, a building known for Karaoke proudly displayed a golden banner, making it very apparent that Indigenous people occupied this space. On entering, festive garlands guided you up an elevator, which opened on a lobby displaying maps of Native American and Canadian tribes, and a mannequin wearing and elegant velvet dress which hinted at a much bigger story. Past the lobby, Sheldon Raymore and Rick Chavoya greeted community members and visitors with smiles and welcomes. To the right of the entrance stood a shrine to the collective work AICH has done on Governors Island, next to a micro-installation of the Red Dress Project.
Each vendor sat against the walls with their wares fully displayed in front of them. The cafe style seating in the main area, where people enjoyed the incredible food prepared by Letitia, Matt, and Frances, food rescuers and caterers who help Occupy Kitchen. At the furthest corner from the entrance was a brightly lit backdrop with giant gift boxes. Lights twinkled everywhere, and proud banners depicting Pacific Northwest designs proclaimed the space as Indigenous space. The people there proclaimed the space as Indigenous space.
The smell of spiced apple cider invited everyone to take off their coats and have a visit, rather than to just shop and inquire. The brightly lit stage hinted at more than commerce to come.
Tohanash Terrant had many beads, hard to come by at prices and quality not of New York City, and her own work definitely belonged in a museum. Next to her was Kayla Looking Horse, who’s clutch purse made of leather and loom beadwork had yours truly, a Sioux-boy homesick. Corner to her was the Preston, Melanie, and Joy Tonpahote’s combined work made a dazzling array of unique earrings and so many pendants and bracelets only reinforced the spirit of an Indigenous space.
Pena Bonita showed many incredible prints made from a line of work inspired by her own children. Each picture could capture you for hours. Against the AICH headquarters’ walls was the proprietor of Mohawk Coterie and the Executive Director of AICH, with a wild menagerie of beaded ropes, and incredible earring done in contemporary Mohawk style.
In the middle of the room sat a very long table displaying items donated by each vendor, which were to be auctioned off, to raise funding for AICH.
At two pm, the one and only Tony Enos was announced to the stage, and looking like Santa’s glamorous personal trainer, where he performed an emotional rendition of “White Christmas” on guitar. When he sang “Feliz Navidad” there were only a few who didn’t sing a long, and we were treated to his new single, “Urban NDN’s” which stuck in my head for hours, in a good way. Then it was announced that AICH was invited back to Governors Island to do programming, in the same Admiral’s house again, in the coming spring.
The event saw many visitors from the Community as well as the random passerby who were enticed to join the space. The evening was capped off with a second performance from Tony Enos, and the start of a new event from the Thunderbird Community dancers who would be using the space after us.
The Winter art market was an event to show-case great work done by Indigenous people, in Indigenous space, and it more than did so. It was a great chance for the community to find cohesion, catch up on gossip, and finally meet the non-natiive community in our space.
It was you the community that really made this event one to remember, as we thank you for it. From all of us here at AICH, may all your holidays be merry and bright.
– Author, Talon Ksa