Sarah Carr is the mastermind behind the Gift Forest, a wildly successful holiday pop-up market that takes place annually at The Bridge. She is also a recent addition to the board of The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative. Sarah shares a few words about her experience with The Bridge and the spirit behind Gift Forest.
Gift Forest has become a colossal project that requires meticulous planning and an intense burst of manual labor. But, it started so small, as an idea to have something like a craft fair in the garage space behind my former residence across the street from McGuffey Park. I had this idea, and word of it traveled to Greg Kelly (Bridge co-founder), with whom I was loosely acquainted at the time.
Greg saw potential and offered me use of The Bridge for the event in 2009. It was the vote of confidence from an authoritative stranger I needed to get started on bringing the project to fruition. So, I began planning these summer and holiday craft fairs. Just day events intended to encourage hanging out in the sunshine. One of the events even made it on the front page of the now defunct ReadyMade magazine website.
In 2010, we decided to expand the success of the craft fairs into a holiday pop-up shop spotlighting art and handmade items. Gift Forest has been going ever since, growing and changing each year. It really helps artists in this area get exposure and make money with Gift Forest only taking a small cut.
The spirit of the event has always been subversive. We have strived to undermine the chain store shopping experience by creating a neighborhood-based alternative market. With most of the profits going back to people who live and work in our community, we divert money from corporate hands. When you shop at Gift Forest, you invest in a working artist that might be your neighbor. You also provide the support an artist needs to keep pushing forward through the process.
This little idea became a really big thing with larger economic implications and I don’t think that would have happened without The Bridge. I believe the buzzword for this concept is “incubator,” but when I think about my history with The Bridge, I don’t think about an apparatus that’s clinical and cold. I think about my relationship to this place, and the people involved, which brings very warm memories of how I got here. This impressive thing would not have happened at all without the support and confidence I have received here since I started showing up as an undergraduate in 2007.