Ho, Ho, Oh, No!

Beloved East Austin holiday market wraps up for good after 18 years

Beloved East Austin holiday market wraps up for good after 18 years

Cherrywood Art Fair
Cherrywood Art Fair is closing after 18 years in East Austin. Photo courtesy of Cherrywood Art Fair

One of Austin's favorite holiday traditions is ending. Cherrywood Art Fair, the East Austin holiday market that has run for almost two decades, will return December 7-8 for a final weekend, giving patrons a chance to shop locally made vendors and say goodbye for good.

Hosted at Maplewood Elementary School, Cherrywood is a juried fair that features work from local artists, makers, and small business owners, and is free and open to the public. Over the past 18 years, organizers estimate it's featured more than 1,200 Texas artists and welcomed more than 100,000 visitors.

Organizers cite declining volunteer and financial support as the reasons for the shutter, noting that both have declined in recent years. They also say ending the fair will give Chula League, the market's nonprofit beneficiary and producing partner, the opportunity to "restrategize its mission and reassess its priorities" in the wake of shifting community demographics.

“Since its inception, Chula League has strived to fuel and sustain the arts in East Austin. Just as the arts landscape in Austin has changed over the past two decades, a decline in financial support for our organization is forcing Chula League to evolve," said John Mathew Bernal, chair of the Chula League Board of Directors, in a release. "In making the tough decision to pause all programming which includes Cherrywood Art Fair and our arts-mentorship program, Little Artist BIG ARTIST, we will be able to strategize a way to keep our promise to the arts community in the coming years."

The loss of Little Artist BIG ARTIST, a mentorship program that pairs working artists with East Austin school children, comes amid shifting tensions and uncertainty within the community. In November, the Austin Independent School District voted to close four elementary schools citywide, three of which are located on the east side. The backlash was swift and sustained, with parents and community members decrying the decision as at best thoughtless and at worst, racist. 

Austinites still have one last chance to support Chula League and the Cherrywood Art Fair when the market opens its doors for one final run December 7-8. In addition to selling the work of nearly 100 local artists, the free fair will also have live music, kids activities hosted by Austin Creative Reuse, face painting, kitten adoptions, Austin food vendors, and more. For more information, head here.