Vends + Vibes to celebrate season with handmade goods

Contributing Writer

Fajr Rasul Allen started her gluten-free baked goods business, Better Belly, in 2017. Although her goods were already being sold at L!VE Cafe in Oak Park, Allen wanted to do some marketing in order to spread her brand recognition. She found Vends + Vibes, the annual arts marketplace hosted by University of Chicago’s Arts and Public Life.

“What I liked about Vends + Vibes was that it didn’t cost me anything,” she said. “It was local and in my community. It gave people an opportunity to come see me and taste my food.”

Vends + Vibes will take place from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 8-9, at 301 Garfield Blvd.

This will be the fifth year for the event, which combines vendors who sell handmade goods and deejays who spin music to create the vibe. There will be 33 vendors this year.

Nikki Patin, who is in charge community arts engagement for Arts + Public Life and curator of Vends + Vibes, said the event developed out of great love and respect for handmade art.

“This is an economic driver for the community. Our vendors make an incredible variety of products,” Patin said about the event which takes place the second weekend of December.

The event will include everything from Hip Hop-themed handmade accessories to herbal hair care products.

“Their hands have been on them and their hearts are in it. It touches on the aspect, one of a kind pieces and a truly eclectic mix,” said Erin Venable, assistant director of communications at Arts + Public Life.

The deejays are voted on by the staff. This year, there are four — Cut Cuz, Jay Too, Sadie Rock and Selah Say.

“Each of them spins a very eclectic blend of music. It adds to the uniqueness of the event. The deejays provide the soundtrack,” Venable said.

This is the second year Allen’s Better Belly is part of the marketplace. She said her goods are undetectably gluten-free.

“The whole point was to make it so that you didn’t know I switched it up on you. That’s what I’m most proud of, you don’t know it’s gluten-free unless I tell you,” Allen said.

Allen said she wishes there were more opportunities for marketplaces where vendors did not have to pay.

“I like the people who run it, everybody is just so nice. I’m very grateful they allowed me to participate again this year,” she said.

Venable said the event is inspired by the South Side.

“This is a celebration of the arts block, celebrating the culture that is South Side and Washington Park, inspired by the community,” she said.

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