ArtHop attracts many vendors, attendees despite omicron concerns

February’s ArtHop was full of vendors and attendees despite concerns about the omicron variant and rising COVID-19 cases.

ArtHop, which features many local businesses and artists on the first Thursday evening of every month, has been a major event since 1997 in downtown Fresno.

After about two years of a global pandemic, many vendors and attendees were expecting a full in-person return by then. However, some organizations and businesses are still taking precautions by canceling events, rescheduling them, or switching to in-person formats.

The Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission (EOC) LGBTQ+ Resource Center has canceled events scheduled for February due to the high number of COVID-19 cases in Fresno County.

Known for providing services in Fresno such as LGBTQ+ skills training to help improve mental health services, the Resource Center provides Fresno queer artists with free space to exhibit and sell their art during ArtHop.

“We all want [queer] artists in Fresno to have a place where they don’t have to pay to sell their art, we represent the community that way and give them space and don’t charge them for exposure to the community for their art,” said Jennifer Cruz, project manager.

Artists can still sell their products online when the doors to the Resource Center are closed.

“LGBTQ+ Resource Center EOC plans to participate in ArtHop when the [COVID-19] the positivity rate is down to 30%,” Cruz said.

However, not all companies missed this month’s ArtHop.

The Pi Shop, located on Broadway Street, hosted a village of vendors for ArtHop. Plants, pies, musicians and a DJ all took the stage at The Pi Shop on Thursday night.

Vendors have set up booths for attendees to visit at venues such as The Pi Shop during ArtHop. (Viviana Hinojos/The College Boy)

Katrina Covarrubias, volunteer for The Pi Shop and co-owner of Pie Mamas with her sister Anna, graduated from Fresno State in 2020 with her degree in public relations with a minor in business.

Covarrubias’ Pie Mamas is a Fresno-based dessert shop specializing in homemade pies baked from scratch.

“I thought it would be a good idea if the Pie Mamas sold their pies at the Pi Shop. I contacted the owner of The Pi Shop and got the go-ahead to do whatever I wanted for this event,” Covarrubias said.

Covarrubias said small business owners have been hurt due to the impact of COVID-19. Sellers at The Pi Shop also had concerns about their attendance this month.

“There were a few sellers worried, wondering if we have this big event, what the outcome will be,” Covarrubias said. “But then you see the other side of the coin, people are still going to concerts and helping the Save Mart Center. How are the little guys helped? »

When small businesses miss events like ArtHop due to closures, they stand to lose more than larger businesses, Covarrubias said.

“Last month, ArtHop was canceled, [but] a few places were still open. We walked out and were the only two vendors here. The [were] literally three customers all night,” Covarrubias said.

According to Covarrubias, an event full of vendors and attendees versus an event with very low attendance is the difference between selling pies and having 50 pies left. For Pie Mamas, this is a potential waste of product money.

Vanna Vandal, owner of small business Skull n Bows 77, has been attending vendor shows, including Fresno State Vintage Days, since 2009.

Vanna Vandal poses at her booth for her company Skull n Bows 77 at ArtHop in February. (Viviana Hinojos/The College Boy)

“During the pandemic, I had to start selling online. I started with DePop in 2020, and I just hit 160 orders today actually,” Vandal said.

COVID-19 has provided unforeseen benefits to vendors like Vandal, such as additional revenue streams.

“If it hadn’t been for the pandemic, I have to be honest with you, I don’t think I would have ever pushed online so much. It also made me appreciate in-person events more,” said Vandal.

The community is one of the most important parts of ArtHop for many vendors, and it’s what many are most afraid of losing.

“You get support from many vendors. I’m selling a bracelet to the guy who made me tacos. I love the community aspect, and that’s the one thing I’m scared of leaving,” Vandal said.

Madelyn Neufeld, owner of Mady Rose Art, graduated from Fresno State with her degree in biology. Neufeld has been a salesperson at ArtHop for three years, selling artwork and pieces with a focus on biology and science-themed art.

Madelyn Neufeld poses with her art as she sells pieces for her company Mady Rose Art. (Viviana Hinojos/The College Boy)

“When ArtHop closed, I had to do a lot of stuff online, but a lot of stuff is online these days, so I was able to hold on pretty well,” Neufeld said.

While Neufeld’s company has been able to weather the pandemic so far, some things were definitely not the same.

“Missing events affect[s] network with people and get that personal connection in Fresno and find other artists, which you can’t do at home,” Neufeld said.

Attendees turned out in droves to lend their support, regardless of the rise in COVID-19 cases. Many expressed no worries or concerns about the risk of the new variant.

From 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., hundreds of people lined downtown Fresno for ArtHop. (Wyatt Bible/The College Boy)

“I love going out. If you’re so scared, don’t go out, stay home and do what you have to do. For me, I’m going to live every day to the fullest,” said participant Nicole Villalva.

Anahi Martinez, a current student at Fresno City College with transfer plans to Fresno State and majoring in engineering, shared Villalva’s sentiments.

“I’ve been coming to ArtHop for three years, I love the environment. We have to socialize,” Martinez said.

The doors of the Warnors Theater feature an installation of used clothing vendors. (Wyatt Bible/The College Boy)
ArtHop vendors sold a variety of different items, such as plants, paintings, sculptures, and food. (Wyatt Bible/The College Boy)

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