For those looking for unique, locally made gifts this holiday season, a warehouse in North Austin with a giant blue genie on the roof may be the ideal shopping destination.
The Blue Genie Art Bazaar, located at 6100 Airport Blvd., is a staple of the Austin holiday season. Each winter, the 11,000-square-foot warehouse transforms into an art bazaar that features local, handmade works ranging from ceramics to clothing.
Open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. from Black Friday to Christmas Eve, the bazaar began 18 years ago when four artists, Chris Coakley, Rory Skagen, Kevin Collins and Dana Younger, decided to showcase art through a Christmas show. Younger said the success of the bazaar came unexpectedly.
“We liked to do fun things, have parties and show the artwork of our friends,” Younger said. “One of my employees said that we should do a Christmas show. We hung up a bunch of our friends’ artwork, and to our shock and amazement, we actually sold things.”
What started as an impromptu show expanded into an annual platform for local artists to display and sell their art throughout the holidays. Chris Levack, an artist who has showcased his work at the bazaar since it opened, said Blue Genie has become a trademark of the Austin holiday scene.
“It’s been so fun to watch (the bazaar) evolve,” Levack said. “I feel like I’ve grown up with it. It’s really become an Austin icon — a true tradition of Austin.”
For Levack, the experience of selling his own crafts and seeing all the other work is unlike any other.
“Watching the confluence of local creative people and our warm-hearted Austin audience is so unique,” Levack said. “It’s a positive venture and creative way to do business.”
Carolena Crank, Plan II and business honors senior, said she also finds Blue Genie unique. After attending last year, details from the bazaar stuck with her, and she plans on going back this year.
“I was struck by all of the local artists who were there,” Crank said. “It has a very big warehouse feel, but there are lots of little stalls and booths with each of the vendors.”
Crank said she witnessed booths that featured hand-molded fluorescent lights, embroidered Austin-centric aprons and jewelry made from eclectic, randomly-found objects. The variety of art Crank noticed is key to the bazaar founders.
Younger said they hope to reach every part of the Austin community.
“When it comes down to it, this is a gift show,” Younger said. “People are shopping for all kinds of people. I want to have a $5 item that you can bring to your office’s white elephant party, but I also want to have the expensive, beautiful piece of jewelry that you want to give to your mother.”
Younger said the bazaar’s importance stems not only from the merchandise, but Blue Genie’s place in Austin’s community.
“These traditions and communities that come together are so valuable for Austin,” Younger said. “It’s a part of what makes our city special. We feel honored to sit at that confluence of art and commerce and community.”