photos by Becca Sankey Photography and provided by Jaton Hampton
Having returned to the slower pace of San Angelo after living with her family in the bustling city of Dallas, Jaton Hampton wanted nothing more than to spotlight her beloved hometown’s burgeoning art community. She envisioned giving locals weekend entertainment-things to do, see, and experience- in the heart of historic downtown. In April 2021, she discussed with friends the idea of an event, and – just a month later – held the first-ever Paintbrush Alley Market Days. Paintbrush Alley Market Days is named for its location in Paintbrush Alley and the Pop Art Museum, both downtown open-air art museums known for their unique large-scale murals from local artists, painted under the direction of San Angelo nonprofit, Art in Uncommon Places.
The event was an instant hit. With no entry fee or way to count people coming and going, Hampton estimated that more than 1,000 people came through to browse the wares of more than 40 artisans and vendors, whose booths lined both the Pop Art Museum and, just across the street, Paintbrush Alley. “I am very particular in who I select (to be a vendor at the event). The reason why I am so selective and choose a wide variety of vendors is to have something for everyone’s taste,” Hampton said. She also tries to feature vendors and artisans who make different items to ensure diversity of products. “I want to maintain an artisan look and not become another craft show,” she said. “I am selective about not choosing multi-level marketers or direct sale companies. I go through each (vendor) application, their business pages, and products to make sure to choose local artisans (who make their own products).”
She admitted that the work was stressful particularly because it was a one-woman show. Once Hampton had AIUP and Downtown San Angelo Inc. on board, she set the date, notified nearby businesses about the event, coordinated other logistics, recruited and researched vendors and mapped out their locations, hired a deejay, publicized and marketed, and fielded countless questions on social media from vendors and participants. During the event itself, she is responsible for taking photos and making sure everything runs smoothly – which is no small feat with dozens of vendors involved.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s a lot of work,” she said. “By the end of the day, I am beat down and exhausted emotionally and physically. I am a wife, mother of three, work full time, and have my own two small businesses. But seeing so many people downtown, laughing, enjoying themselves, meeting up with friends, supporting other businesses, is such a reward. It’s what makes me keep going. The stress of the planning is overridden by happy vendors and happy guests. I love seeing other businesses succeed. My goal is to bring something fun and exciting to our community while supporting small businesses,” she said. “I think I accomplished just that.”
To be able to do so in Paintbrush Alley and the Pop Art Museum, places she called “two hidden gems,” was a bonus. Paintbrush Alley, located in the alleyway between Twohig and Concho Avenues, and traversing Irving to Chadbourne, has – for years - been a unique San Angelo feature. In 2019, more than 50 artists were commissioned to redo the art in the alley to the theme of the classic movie, “Giant,” which featured Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean. The massive undertaking was facilitated by Art in Uncommon Places and downtown San Angelo, Inc. The San Angelo Health Foundation also made the project possible, according to AIUP’s website.
The Pop Art Museum, at 125 W. Twohig, was the site of a bowling alley in the 1940s and ‘50s before its eventual excavation. For many years, the abandoned lot was nothing more than grass and weeds peeking through an expansive concrete slab sandwiched between brick walls and topped with rusted rafters. AIUP, which strives to make art accessible to everyone, revived the space in 2019 with a tribute to the ‘50s pop art movement. Around three dozen artists contributed to the project, which now “pops” with color; even trees, their bark painted red and white, are whimsical features that bring the space to life.
Four months later, in September 2020, Hampton held the second Paintbrush Alley Market Days. “The two biggest differences I saw (between the first and second events) were that I was no longer begging for vendors,” she said. “Spots filled up very quickly. And secondly, the number of people who showed up seemed to have doubled. I was positively surprised at how many people attended and all of the amazingly talented people we have right here in San Angelo.”
Paintbrush Alley Market Days' next event will be April 30. “I personally wanted to create something that was designed only for local vendors and artists,” Hampton said. “As a small business owner and a person who has attended many vendor events, I wanted to create something unique and different from other shows. I hope that I can continue to be successful in doing so.” †