Events Featured

Fifth “Big Gay Market” coming Saturday in Cottage Grove

Photo supplied.

This Saturday, March 16, The Big Gay Market (TBGM) will ring in its first anniversary with a fifth arts market at the Wisconsin Rugby Complex in Cottage Grove from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Local artists Ollie DiPietro and Ashlety Shaw Adams launched The Big Gay Market in 2023 to fill a gap in the local Madison arts scene.

“The Big Gay Market was started to fill a void in the community. We noticed there wasn’t LGBTQ+-centered markets in the area,” DiPietro said. “At the time, it was the new year, and we noticed there were no markets in March, which was an odd thing.”

After the “wild and unexpected” success of their first market, Shaw and DiPietro decided to structure the market around a quarterly system (featuring spring, Pride, Halloween, and holiday markets), catering to both the gaps in current market cycles and holidays that appeal to queer communities. 

With four markets under their belts, Adams and DiPietro’s system for running these events is a “well-oiled machine.” 

“Because the both of us are vendors, we understand what the vendors need to operate at their best as well as [what are] ‘nice to have’s’ that we can provide,” Adams explained. “And if vendors are happy, customers can sense that.”

Ollie DiPietro and Ashlety Shaw Adams. Photo supplied.

Jordan Bethea of Big Hair Illustrations, who illustrates art that celebrates nerd franchises, picked up on TBGM’s organization from the beginning. After meeting Adams at a Comic Con event and scoping out a previous Big Gay Market, he knew that he wanted to participate at an upcoming event as a vendor. 

“I was very impressed with how the market was run,” Bethea said. “There was plenty of space for the vendor booths, space for people to walk around, and Ashley [and her team] had a lot of vendors of varying artistic mediums.” This weekend will be Big Hair Illustrations’ first time vending with TBGM.

Each market, the organizers try to have an even mix of newcomers and veteran TBGM vendors. Among the more than 60 vendors selling at this weekend’s market, more than half will be selling with The Big Gay Market for the first time. 

“We have between five to 10 people who, either this is their first market ever, or they’ve only done like a handful of shows,” Adams said.

In addition to a pop up bookstore from Madison’s beloved Room of One’s Own, drag queens will also visit every stall at 2 p.m. to take pictures with vendors and customers. 

Beyond their mission of creating an LGBTQ+ friendly makers market, BGM has also been intentional about making sure their vendors are racially diverse, especially in a Madison arts scene that DiPietro notes is very “white-centered.” 

“The core of it is that artists create art depending on their lived experiences,” they explained. “They create things based off of their childhood, their upbringing, their family, their lives right now, and their lives in the future, and identity changes that. So if you have a market of all people that look the same, then there are going to be a lot of things that are the same.”

Beyond the sense of inclusivity it creates, Chloe Lee Longmire adds that participating in TBGM, whether as a shopper or a vendor, is also “a chance to step back from big businesses and corporations, embracing the essence of small, local enterprises.” Longmire is the owner of the brand Chase My Creations that produces transformative, anti-racist art and apparel. 

“By supporting diverse vendors, you’re not only advancing economic equity and empowerment,  but also fostering a more balanced distribution of power,” she said. “Markets like this open so many doors for small businesses like Chase My Creations and help pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable economy.”

TBGM’s BIPOC vendors are also supporting the LGBTQ+ community through their businesses. “I wanted to apply to [The Big Gay Market] because I wanted to bring my art directly to the queer community. Giving back is a foundation of our company,” Jodyann Morgan, owner of the Madison-based candle company CTOAN, said. “Since launching, we have been able to donate $10,000 to mutual aid and nonprofits, including the Transgender Law Center, The Center, and the Black Trans Travel Fund.” 

Learn more about 5 BIPOC vendors who will be present at this weekend’s market:

Big Hair Illustrations creates a variety of prints, posters, and stickers that celebrate and draw inspiration from characters across different nerd fandoms, including Star Wars, Dragon Ball Z, and Pokémon. 

Chase My Creations is a “bold brand that refuses neutrality in the face of systemic injustice, advocating loudly for racial and social justice” through its vibrant apparel, including t-shirts, sweatshirts, totes, beanies, and more.

CTOAN crafts hand-poured body positive candles and other home goods in Madison. According to their website, CTOAN’s “gender-free candles allow people to see their bodies, and the bodies of people they love, in accessible art.”

The Fruity Studio is a queer Asian business creating beaded and clay jewelry with “bold colors [and] fun patterns” based in Milwaukee. 

Tres Ojos is a Milwaukee-based Latina- and queer-owned business. They sell spiritual goods like spell kits and oils, crystal-ladden jewelry, candles, and more.

The Big Gay Market will be fully ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant and disposable masks will be provided. Stalls will be located both indoors and outdoors. Carpooling is encouraged.