Fair Trader hatches new plan

Cindy Pardo is pushing back.

For years, Pardo has watched the available space and opportunities for artists in Hyde Park and the broader South Side dwindle, and she has decided to do something about it. Both an artist and a businesswoman, Pardo is sending out feelers for an idea she hatched recently to create a retail space that allows individual artists to showcase themselves under one roof. She describes it as in the family of antique malls, but with a different vibe.

“The South Side has a tremendous pool of talented, creative artists and craftspeople who need a space to exhibit their work,” Pardo said. “I love the co-operative idea, but reality says that there aren’t enough hours in the day to make art, have a day job and staff a retail store.  Handcrafted/South, which is what I’m calling it, will have a paid staff, will feature South Side artists and craftspeople and have room for virtually anything handmade, including my personal passion, fair trade items. I believe there is still a market for original work, and this will be a place for artists and buyers to come together.”

Pardo is used to making space for the creative types in Hyde Park.

When conversation began some years ago about how her church, First Unitarian, 5650 S. Woodlawn Ave., might put the mini-mansion it owned to good use, Pardo arranged to connect the church board with a mix of local and citywide artists and social entrepreneurs. The result, the Southside Hub of Production, enjoyed a run long past its intended one-year stay and was the talk of the neighborhood.

For many years, Pardo also co-owned and operated the Fair Trader, which closed up its retail space last year. The store provided an outlet for an international network of artists and artisans to sell their goods at a living wage. Despite a loyal following, the expensive rents in Hyde Park made operating the store infeasible.

A former member of the now-shuttered Artisans 21, which closed last year for much the same reasons as the Fair Trader, Pardo thinks the time has come for artists to band together and make their own luck.

“Most artists I know would rather make art than have to deal with the nitty-gritty of selling art. At Handcrafted/South the craftsperson would keep their booth stocked, show up for events – which we hope to have in abundance – and pay a reasonable fee for their space. We hope this model will appeal to a wide array of talented South Side people.”

Pardo recently held three introductory meetings and describes the conversation they sparked as promising.

For more information, visit handcraftedsouth.org, and to contact Pardo, e-mail info@handcraftedsouth.org.