We turned lemons into lemonade and it worked out in a nice way as a year-round promotional tool for our vendors.

The Art of the Pivot: Made in Kingston

Made in Kingston (MiK) has been an exciting and well-attended annual showcase for Kingston-based artists and artisans since 2013. Friends, family and business associates mingle in close quarters. The festive, social tradition supports local artists, businesses and organizations. It’s the perfect time to buy locally-made goods and artwork. But when COVID-19 hit last year, MiK planners nixed hosting a large indoor pre-holiday event and decided to create an online marketplace, Makers Market. “We turned lemons into lemonade,” says committee coordinator Karen Berelowitz, “and it worked out in a nice way as a year-round promotional tool for our vendors.”

“Our volunteer committee usually starts to plan in May and it seemed very unlikely we could safely host an in-person event,” she adds. Although they originally considered other options—holding an outdoor Made in Kingston event during warmer weather, creating a web-based weekend-long sales event, hosting a socially distanced live event—they ultimately decided an in-person event wasn’t a good idea. And, since the e-commerce aspect of setting up a web-based event proved daunting, they refocused their efforts. “We had always talked about doing multiple or even year-round showcases, but it’s a lot of work to pull off Made in Kingston and it’s really hard to find a large indoor space to accommodate everyone,” Berelowitz explains. “We decided to take advantage of COVID and focus on a year-round promotional tool for vendors. Our Makers Market will be a permanent fixture of Made in Kingston. The website launched in 2020 and was created by Rick Whelan and Mark Marshall. It looks really engaging and colorful and uses a simple application process. We’ll do the marketing via social media, postcards, radio and ads in local newspapers.”

By consolidating the promotion for artists in one place, Made in Kingston’s Makers Market offers an ‘always open’ venue for artists to feature their work despite COVID.

Made in Kingston—reimagined as an online Makers Market to showcase handcrafted, fabricated or manufactured items—promotes the artwork and artisan goods of Kingston vendors all year long for a small annual fee. There’s no deadline to apply, although vendors are encouraged to apply by the end of October to ensure a full, vibrant holiday cohort. Made in Kingston does extra promotion around the Christmas and Hanukkah holidays, as well as some smaller-scale thematic promotions (such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day). “We always had limits before because of the space of our venue, but now we’ve set no limit on the number of Kingston-based artists, makers and businesses who can participate. Vendors were invited to participate in a pop-up outdoor Farmers Market in December, and there will be other fun bonuses,” says Berelowitz.

Made in Kingston uses the annual enrollment fee to set up an individual page for each vendor, and vendors display photos of their works/goods, and contact information such as website URL, Etsy shop, Instagram or Twitter feed, Facebook page, phone number and so on. All proceeds from sales go directly to the artists/vendors who handle all their own sales directly.

“We’re deeply grateful to the sponsors we’ve had since the beginning,” Berelowitz says, adding local businesses have been the key to maintaining low fees for participating artists. Consistent supporters include Bailey Pottery, Herzog’s/Kingston Plaza, R&F Handmade Paints, Rough Draft and Ryan & Ryan Insurance, and more sponsors are always needed. Logos and links to sponsors’ websites are featured on the Makers Market website. “We support the businesses that support us,” she says. “Our fee for artists to be a part of Made in Kingston has never been more than $45 and our ability to keep fees reasonable is thanks to the sponsors. We are able to present a forum where all artists, including those who are just getting started, participate equally because we charge a low fee.”

Local business sponsorships cover ads, signage, lawn signs, posters, postcards, fliers, website costs and, when in-person events are possible again, venue fees, insurance, equipment rentals and more. Business sponsorships also help support Made in Kingston’s annual $1,000 scholarship to a Kingston High School senior who is graduating in the arts or technology. “We’re really proud of our scholarship award, which is funded by raffles, vendor fees and our sponsors,” Berelowitz adds. “We operate on a very small budget and no matter what, we always award a scholarship to a KHS student.” The 2021 recipient will be announced at the KHS graduation ceremonies this spring. Recent Made in Kingston Scholarship winners have been:

2020: Emmett Lippert
2019: Nick Elizabeth Carroll (with extra support from Bailey Pottery) and Atballany Jimenez Peralta
2018: Sydney Miller
2017: Raquelle DeCicco

Made in Kingston and its Makers Market are overseen by the Business Alliance of Kingston, and all work is done by a volunteer committee of local artists and business owners. Made in Kingston has also collaborated with MAD since their inception, in particular to support fine artists, In addition to the artist fees and sponsorships, Made in Kingston has received support from the City of Kingston and Arts Mid-Hudson.

If you would like further information or are ready to volunteer to work on the Made in Kingston Committee, please contact Karen Berelowitz at madeinkingstonNY@gmail.com. Kingston artists and artisans who want to be part of the Makers Market are encouraged to apply here: https://madeinkingstonny.com/maker-application. “The more, the merrier!” says Berelowitz. Business sponsorships are greatly appreciated—please apply to be a Sponsor here: https://madeinkingstonny.com/become-a-sponsor/.

Made in Kingston 2019 photos courtesy of kingstonhappenings.org