After decades of planning, the long awaited Riverside Arts Market (RAM) opened on Saturday, April 4, 2009. According to various sources, nearly 40,000 visitors took part in the festivities. Here are a number of photos from the big day.
The History of Riverside Arts Market (RAM)
The genesis of the concept came from Riverside Avondale Preservation’s (RAP) founder Dr. Wayne Wood, who was visiting Portland, Oregon, in 1993. He happened upon the Portland Saturday Market, an outdoor art market partially covered by an old bridge. Over 750,000 people visit the Portland market every year. The weather-proof market idea seemed very adaptable to the space under Jacksonville’s Fuller Warren Bridge, which was then in the planning stage for replacement.
Wood returned to Jacksonville and convinced the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to support the project and to dedicate the usual under-the-bridge landscaping funds to accommodate the Arts Market amenities and requirements. Wood secured the backing of city officials as well. The concept would allow parking under the bridge during the week for Fidelity National Financial (located next door to the bridge) and the Arts Market on the weekend.
Architect Melody Bishop (a former chairman of RAP) was selected as the architect for the Riverwalk connecting Downtown to the Fuller Warren Bridge, and her vision to integrate the Arts Market space with the riverfront pedestrian corridor was ingenious and creative. Parking spaces would become artists’ spaces on the weekend. Restrooms and a riverfront performance stage were built in. Utilities for artists’ booths, lighting, and visually attractive festival spaces were integrated into the area.
The project has been delayed for several years, due to problems in the completion of the Fuller Warren Bridge and the demolition of the old bridge pilings, which was delayed by litigation of the contractor in court. The landscaping, decorative paving, and lighting under the bridge are now completed.
The Arts Market will be operated under the umbrella of the Riverside Avondale Preservation organization. For the past year, RAP committees have been brainstorming and planning to open the arts market this spring, 2009. With over 30 years experience in presenting large-scale art festivals and events such as the Station Celebration, RAP is the ideal organization to pull off such a spectacular concept. Hundreds of hours of planning meetings with artists, city and state officials, event planners, food vendors, farmers, entertainers, and numerous committee members have gone into to shaping the final plans for the Riverside Arts Market.
RAM is a truly great example of a public-private partnership. Without the commitment and support of four consecutive Mayors and dozens of city and state departments, RAM could never have come into being.
Special thanks goes to Mayor John Peyton, whose administration has spearheaded the completion of the RAM site. Enormous credit also goes to City Councilman Michael Corrigan, whose vision and tenacity have been a mainstay of the project.
The Riverside Arts Market will be open every Saturday 10am-4pm, from April to December.† For more information, visit: www.riversideartsmarket.com
Images by Ennis Davis and Steve Congro