By Robert Mills
This summer art began to thrive at the corner of Martin Luther King and Adeline. Every Saturday, members of Berkeley’s Firehouse Collective gather at the Firehouse Bazaar to share artwork, entertainment and food with the community.
“We’re right by the Ashby BART,” said Firehouse Director Tom Franco. “The Ashby Flea Market is happening at the same time. It’s the old police station. So we kind of jokingly call this the police house.”
Franco, along with partner Julia Lazar and members of the collective, opened the bazaar doors this summer. He said the old building is full up with painters, food artisans, ceramists, and every kind of Berkleyan.
We sat down with Franco and Lazar in the backyard of the bazaar.
Lazar attributed the bazaar’s rich, cultural feel to its ageless quality – an open-door policy to every member of the community.
“The Bazaar is kind of an ancient place,” she said. “It’s a marketplace but it’s also a social place where people come and talk and hang out. Especially in California and here in Berkeley, it’s a perfect place to come together and experience how it feels to be together in a good-will state, in a state of openness and curiosity and playfulness.”
On the day of our visit, jewelry vendors chatted with visitors and kombucha shared space with barbecue. Live art is integral to the bazaar as well. The stage is loaded weekly with neighborhood actors, dance battlers and musicians like Will Crum – who pledged to gorilla-rock 365 straight days this summer.
Franco said he wanted to find what the bazaar could be before he decided how it should be.
“As soon as it becomes exclusive in any sense—whether it be about trying to make this amount of money or catering to this kind of party atmosphere—it kills the culture vibe.”
The philosophy looks like it’s working, as popularity of the weekly event continues to grow in both size and diversity, gathering Berkeley’s original artists and art enthusiasts.