Placemaking: Make Oly takes over the Artesian Well
By Jordan Nailon
The organizers of the “Make Olympia” local crafters market have announced that they will be making a short move from their former location on Washington Street, between 4th Avenue and State Street, to the thoroughly renovated and newly dedicated Artesian Well lot, at 415 4th Avenue in downtown Olympia.
Make Olympia was originally called “CraftXnw,” and was held in concert with Spring Arts Walk in April 2010, before being renamed last summer. According to Shanty Slater and Tina Olson, organizing members of Make Olympia, the genesis for their event was straightforward. “Many area artists and crafters go to Seattle or Portland to vend at markets. With so many creative, motivated makers and doers in a town that honors buying locally, it seemed obvious that a market should be organized in Olympia. We love the idea of outdoor markets, music, food, handmade goods and people mingling. It seemed like a great fit for downtown.”
The market has in fact proven to be well suited to Olympia, as many vendors and patrons alike seem to return each time, along with fresh faces just getting in on the fun. “The concept is pretty simple and each market is a little different depending on the vendors, customers and entertainers that show up,” explained Slater and Olson. “The name has changed, those involved have changed but the market seems to be steadily coming into it’s own and hopefully will continue to do so. We feel that if we define it too much then it will lose some of the vibrancy.”
Slater and Olson say that the event this year will include “a baker, a skateboard maker, a chiropractor, clothing makers, jewelry folks, soap makers, an herbalist, a caramel maker, a woodworker or two and much more (tie dye, local honey and organic produce, etc.).” They also noted that they have a coupon in the Buy Local coupon book.
This summer’s first crafting bonanza will take place on July 21st, followed by events on August 4th, August 18th, September 1st, and September 15th. Said Slater and Olson, “We are thrilled to be at the Artesian Well lot which is such an iconic place!”
Interested in vending, volunteering, or just have a question? The organizers of Make Olympia can be reached at, email@example.com, or www.makeolympia.com.
Make Olympia’s move from Washington Street to the Artesian Well lot is not a random undertaking. In fact, the market relocation is the first in a series of projects being spearheaded by the City of Olympia in a so-called “Placemaking” effort.
According to Brian Wilson, the new Downtown Liaison for the City of Olympia, “In 2011, the City of Olympia brought in a non-profit organization called Project for Public Spaces (PPS). PPS presented a model that involves reaching out to the community and getting their ideas about what they would like to see in a public space.” One of the first areas identified for improvement was the Artesian Well. Others included the 300 block of 4th Avenue, the Olympia Transit Center, and Sylvester Park.
“Placemaking is less a goal than it is a mentality. Improvements to public spaces don’t always have to be large-scale, million dollar projects. The whole idea is to embrace ideas that are lighter, quicker, and cheaper. Simple improvements such as installing tree benches, game tables, and basic landscaping can bring much needed life to an otherwise forgotten public space.”
In conjunction with the well-documented facility upgrades at the Artesian Well, the steady presence of the Make Olympia Street Market should help to create a tangible destination for people to enjoy, remember, and return to.
The Placemaking project sprouted from a declaration made in January of 2011 by the Olympia City Council to “To create a safer and more welcoming downtown for ALL.” After bringing in the PPS organization for their original presentation in June of 2011, the next step was to intensively train more than 80 members of downtown organizations, businesses, non-profits, and other interested citizens (now known as PPS Zealous Nuts) over five hours in the basic principals of Placemaking.
Next, according to City of Olympia documents, “Over 100 participants including school children and youth participants from social service agencies, business owners, Intercity Transit staff, City staff and interested citizens walked the downtown and graded our public spaces on how to make them safe and welcoming for ALL.” Afterward more than 120 evaluation sheets were tallied and the original places for making were established.
One of the most interesting ideas to come out of the Placemaking discussions has been the concept of “parklets”. According to the City of Olympia, “A parklet is a sidewalk extension, usually the length of two parking spaces. It combines elements such as seating, trees, flowers, shrubs, umbrellas, bike parking or lighting that reflect the unique character and needs of the location. Parklets are intended to provide space for people to sit, relax and enjoy the city around them, especially where narrow sidewalks would otherwise preclude such activities.”
Be sure to keep your eye out for a new place being made, or places that need some attention. As Brian Wilson explains, “The placemaking approach is still relatively new in Olympia. The redesign of the Artesian Well was one of the first placemaking projects to reach completion. Currently, the Parking & Business Improvement Area (PBIA) is reviewing proposals from the community for the redesign of seven different public spaces in downtown Olympia. In addition, the PBIA has allocated money to assist businesses (to) install parklets.”
The Make Olympia organization, for one, is already excited about making a place. “The city has been open to our vision. … We are thrilled about being involved with this space as it redefines itself.” ◙
More info at www.makeolympia.com.