Did you know that vendors at craft fairs often pay to be there?
Wosk says that the financial barrier disproportionately affects disabled makers from participating in local markets and craft fairs. "I understand that Vancouver is expensive, but something has to give," they say.
Wosk and their sister Becky founded We Belong! with the help of a vibrancy grant from the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association which allowed the pair to offer Lot 19, a paved park spot between Hastings and Cordova free of charge to makers. They are also making the event more accessible for vendors by providing canopies and tables to those who don't already have them.
"We are showcasing disabled artists and offering them a free venue in an effort to remove barriers and create an accessible space for everyone. We want to lead by example for the community to follow in that more opportunities should exist for disabled entrepreneurs," says Wosk. Adding that sometimes simply finding the venue and opportunity can be challenging.
"As an Autistic person myself, I saw a huge lack of opportunities for folks who may have financial barriers to entry," shares Wosk. "Oftentimes, we are passed over due to things like financial restrictions or the cliquey attitude that comes with the Vancouver art scene. I want to change the narrative."
Wosk suggests that other craft fairs, markets, and events held in Vancouver should offer sliding scales for fees and encourage more diversity in vendors. We Belong! is being held the week before BC Disability Employment month in September. "Since its introduction, it has never included the voices of disabled people and it doesn't include disabled small business owners," explains Wosk. "I felt it was incredibly important to showcase people who were underrepresented because I know how important that is to me."
Wosk wants to showcase a diverse group of vendors and what they're capable of because, they say "for many of us, self-employment is the best and only option." However, they also point out that "if there were more grants, resources, funding and subsidies for this (maybe through WorkBC, Small Business BC, etc.) then we could be more visible and encouraged to join."
We Belong! Market is a unique event because it's not often that events are "planned by the people they are serving."
We Belong! Market
When: Saturday, August 27, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Where: Lot 19 - 855 W Hastings St, Vancouver
Cost: Free to attend