After traveling almost 1,000 miles in her RV to make the move from Dallas, Texas to Gainesville one week ago, 41-year-old SolAmor Ildefonso found herself at the Queer Maker’s Market at 4th Ave Food Park Tuesday.
About 15 vendors – all of whom identify with the queer community – set up tents at the outdoor venue to promote their small businesses and foster a sense of connectedness.
As a bisexual person in a new city, the LGBTQ+ community welcomed Ildlefonso with open arms at the market, she said. Its friendly nature allowed her to meet people and adjust to life in Gainesville.
“What I’ve experienced so far is the intimacy of this community and the gentleness of how people create this space,” she said. “As soon as I walked in, the environment was very inviting and warm.”
The market benefits the Pride Community Center of North Central Florida. Instead of charging a vendor fee, those participating in the market were asked to donate money to the center, said 23-year-old Mia Crisostomo, the 4th Ave Food Park events coordinator and Opus Coffee marketing coordinator.
The center was vandalized in September, just before the start of Gainesville’s pride month. However, the vandalism did not stop the center from hosting its Pride Festival Saturday, and Crisostomo said Gainesville Pride Month is still in full swing until November.
To celebrate Gainesville Pride Month, the market aims to uplift queer makers, artists and businesses, she said. This is the second queer market hosted to benefit the center, and it raised about $400 from vendor donations.
The first Queer Maker’s Market was held in June. In addition to the donations from the market, Opus Coffee created shirts for Pride Month and donated the proceeds to the center, resulting in a total of about $2,000 she said.
“We really didn’t want to queer wash,” she said. “A lot of businesses do when they just make a rainbow version of their logo. We wanted to find a local organization to support and support them as best we could.”
Sami Wax, 27, was a vendor at the market who owns BakedBranches, a business selling nature-inspired handmade polymer clay art. They decided to donate 25% of their proceeds from their Pride-themed art and jewelry to the center in addition to their initial donation, they said.
“The pride center does a lot of great work around town, and I’d love to give them some love,” they said.
Another vendor, Sara Truman, 42, owns Studio T/M Pottery and Clay. She sold ceramic Pride pots at the market that she made in response to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, she said. She feels the market is not only important because she can promote her business, but also because it brings the LGBTQ+ community together.
“Everybody gets to know each other and other queer businesses,” she said. “I feel like it’s really vital to the community so it’s not so disbursed.”
The market enables the queer community to grow stronger and connect on a deeper level through their art, said 20-year-old Ally Esteban, a vendor and owner of Ally Makes Things. The third-year Industrial and Systems Engineering student at the University of Florida creates prints and textile art and said they would rather sell their products at the market rather than online because it forms relationships that could not be made otherwise.
“I feel like this market helps in terms of building the community and growing those ties,” they said. “Just being here and being able to interact with everyone – especially though things that are expressive – allows you to connect with them on a deeper level.”
The amicable and artistic atmosphere created by the Queer Maker’s Market helps local queer businesses grow and allows the Gainesville LGBTQ+ community to continue to thrive.