Jessica Shoemaker of Southern Curiosities will bring her nature inspired preservation art pieces to Y’all-MartPhoto courtesy of Caitlyn Viars

Columbia residents may be familiar with the large Soda City Saturday market, but on Sunday a new “y’allternative” market is making its way to New Brookland Tavern. Y’all-Mart is a combination of artists from different alternative subcultures who find community in the underground Columbia scene.

Caitlyn Viars and Candace Sharpe, the organizers behind Y’all-Mart, wanted to create something different for a crowd that they feel is underrepresented in the Midlands area.

“Y’allternative is being able to be happy and proud to be southern but also dark and weird and twisty,” said Viars.

Sharpe explained that in the past, some vendors felt they needed to travel outside of Columbia to other alternative markets to find their audience.

“There’s not a lot in Columbia for a more alternative crowd, a lot of the markets that I go to aren’t super successful because the people that are shopping are looking for USC art and prints of the Gervais Street bidge,” Sharpe said.  

The pair is proud to be part of the “loving and supportive” alternative scene in Columbia and hope to bring together a larger “y’allternative” community.

Self-expression is a key point in the “y’allternative” scene. Some vendors shared that they found the isolation of 2020 made them more open to seeking like-minded communities. Others say they’ve always been part of the alternative scene.

“I think people don’t have time to be anything other than their true selves,” Viars said. 

For Jessica Shoemaker, Y’all-Mart is new territory. She will be selling her preserved bug art in person for the first time as Southern Curiosities. Shoemaker, an employee at Harley Haven, wants to make her art her full time job and sees Y’all-Mart as an opportunity to share her passion for nature and art with others who may not see the beauty in oddities yet. 

“I think people, especially after being at home for so long, are trying to find something different,” Shoemaker said.

Another Y’all-Mart vendor, Raine Orris, has been selling her bone jewelry for three years and has “always had a home” in the alternative scene. She uses her art to process and express feelings about death.

Jennifer Mae Hill, another experienced market seller, uses her work to combine her inner child with her adult self through her handmade dolls. For Stacey Black, painting is a positive escape from anxiety. Vulnerability plays a strong role in the way the Y’all-Mart vendors produce and share their art. 

“Putting myself out there was quite terrifying, but now I love it and I’m excited. I’m excited about Y’all-Mart,” Black said.

Artist Justin Epps said for him Y’all-Mart is more of a community-building opportunity than a sales opportunity, and is excited to network with other artists who are “letting their freak flag fly.” He shared that the anxiety of getting started and sharing personal work has been the hardest part of emerging as an artist. He found acceptance in the Y’all-Mart event and in zine culture, which focuses on community.

“People are going to come by and they’re going to just see how weird Columbia is, and I think that’s good and I think people should embrace it,” Epps said.

Viars and Sharpe are hoping that with the excitement surrounding Y’all-Mart on social media and the anticipated success of the event, they will be able to transform Y’all-Mart into a recurring event. 

“Hopefully once we all get together we’ll realize like ‘Oh! There’s a ton of us. We do need to continue doing this,’” Sharpe said.

Viars credits social media with helping build the excitement for the event. The Y’all-Mart Facebook and Instagram pages are already bringing their alternative vendors into the light. 

“It’s an impact that gives our vendors, vendors that you may not see at a Main Street market, it gives them a place to exist and their creations a place to exist and people to appreciate it,” Viars said.

Y’all-Mart will take place at The New Brookland Tavern at 112 State St. on Sunday. Vendors will be present from noon-4:30 p.m., and the event is free to attend. Proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test within 72 hours of attendance is required for entry.

Jennifer Mae Hill of Jenny Mae Creations shows off two of her products. The two headed plush along with her new venture, voodoo dolls, will be sold at the market. Photo by Mackenzie Patterson

Justin Epps, the artist behind Justin Epps Scribbles, showcases his comic. Photo by Mackenzie Patterson

Y’all-Mart will take place at New Brookland Tavern on Sunday, Sept. 19. Photo courtesy of Caitlyn Viars

Pieces by Raine Orris of Transcended Trinkets combine crystal and bone to create artistic pendulums. Photo courtesy of Raine Orris