The Argyle Night Market is a community based, pop-up farmers market and street festival, held on Thursdays at night during summertime, near the Argyle train stop in Uptown Chicago. The first market was held in 2013, and this year is the fifth anniversary. With food, music, live performances, and visual art, the market celebrates the rich diversity and cultural legacies of Uptown.
The size of the market is fairly small. It is planned for local merchants of Uptown to introduce and sell their products, food, and art. The market is very welcoming and attractive to all people.
To understand the Argyle Market, it is also important to know that within Chicago, the city's Asian Population is concentrated in Uptown. Argyle in Uptown is also known as a Vietnamese-town. Several hundred Vietnamese refugees were resettled in Chicago following the fall of Saigon in 1975. Now approximately 10,000 Vietnamese are living in the city of Chicago.
For the past several years, the last night of the market each summer has been dedicated to John Nguyen, a young Vietnamese, Uptown activist and a rapper who grew up on Argyle and tragically drowned after saving a friend’s life. The last night of the market will feature additional traditional songs and dancing, and youth performances by local arts non-profits.
The idea of Argyle Night Market was brought up by a recommendation of a 2008 technical report from the Urban Land Institute. The report convened local business owners, nonprofits, and others to examine how to grow Argyle’s unique and pan-Asian commercial corridor. The report recommended to have the market in Argyle specifically.
The goal was to boost Argyle’s visibility, draw more people to shop and dine on the street, and to improve safety by increasing the number of people out late at night.
AXIS Lab is a group of young artists, designers and planners, and they do a project that aims to build the legacy of the South East Asian Community in Chicago. They do a lot of their projects as curated culinary experience; exploring and focusing on bonds that are created through daily eating rituals. The majority of AXIS Lab is Vietnamese, and grew up near Argyle. AXIS Lab has been providing arts programming in Argyle Night Market. They also have used the market to display photography, to have DIY art-making, and other art-based activities.
The art festival aspect that the market has, gives a delighted movement to people in their body and mind. From African drum participation to Chinese Lion Dance, multi-cultural musical performances appreciate and celebrate the diversity that the area has. People dance to the rhythm and clap together.
I believe that we all need to live in stronger community with one another; and for a community to be healthy, it requires local residents, entrepreneurs, cultural producers, and policy makers engaging with one another to draw on collective community input.
Because of the Argyle Night Market, that block of Uptown is lively and energetic. It gives opportunities to the locals who may be foreign to share their home. A market and festival which reflects its community is strong itself just from the start.
The Argyle Night Market has become a new conceptual communication space for community.
To learn more about the market's mission, I interviewed Greg Carroll, the Director of Partnerships and Events at a non-profit organization called Uptown United. He manages special events, and builds and maintains strong partnerships throughout the Uptown Community with resident leaders, institutions, arts groups, and non-profit agencies.
Correspondence with Greg Carroll, through email, in July 2017:
SUNAH SHIN: How did Argyle Night Market start?
GREG CARROLL: The market was a recommendation of a 2008 technical report from the Urban Land Institute. The report, commissioned by Uptown United, convened local business owners, nonprofits, Aldermen, and others to examine how to grow Argyle’s one-of-a-kind, pan-Asian commercial corridor. The market was an idea to boost after-hours traffic, help familiarize people to Asian food, and to celebrate local culture in an authentic way. The first market was in 2013.
Uptown United was the ideal lead on making the market happen and worked with the 48th Ward Alderman’s office, the 20th District Police Department, and the city to make the event happen. Uptown United assembled local businesses and developed a logo for the event, as well as promoted it heavily in the neighborhood.
SUNAH SHIN: What was your initial mission to start the market, and the goal to achieve to from it?
GREG CARROLL: The goal was to boost Argyle’s visibility, draw more people to shop and dine on the street, and to improve safety by increasing the number of people out and about late at night.
SUNAH SHIN: What was your/your team’s thought on the first Argyle Night Market? And how was the first market?
GREG CARROLL: While it was slow going at first, by now the market has really grown and attracts several thousand attendees every week. The first week of this year’s market series had over 7,500 people!
Some local businesses were concerned about closing the street, but they were won over after they saw the event in action.
To count attendees, Uptown United employs 48th Ward interns who use clickers.
SUNAH SHIN: To become vendors, is it local-preferred?
GREG CARROLL: Restaurants and shops within the Argyle commercial corridor are preferred, however vendors from within Uptown and other local favorites are also welcome.
Alderman Osterman works closely with Uptown United to encourage area restaurants to have booths at the event.
SUNAH SHIN: What is your mission for community?
GREG CARROLL: Our mission is to lead efforts to build a strong, unified business environment; facilitate economic development; and strengthen community—all to nurture a diverse, vibrant, thriving and strong Uptown.
SUNAH SHIN: How do you collaborate the art element into the market?
GREG CARROLL: Art has always been a part of the event, which has grown with each year.
For the past several years, the last night of the market has been dedicated to John 'Vietnam' Nguyen, a young Uptown activist and rapper who grew up on Argyle who tragically drowned after saving a friend’s life. That night will feature additional traditional song and dancing, and youth performances by local arts nonprofits.
Also, a local artist collective called AXIS Lab has been providing arts programming. The collective, comprised of artists who grew up near Argyle, has used the market to display photography, to have DIY art-making, and other art-based activities. This year, the group is working with an Uptown urban planner to host a pop-up 'Museum of Memories' to share the area’s multilayered history.
SUNAH SHIN: Why do you need the art element for the market?
GREG CARROLL: It helps make the events richer and more exciting for attendees. It’s also a way to celebrate local flavor and culture in an authentic way.
SUNAH SHIN: What is the role of Argyle Night Market in the ethical development in Uptown?
GREG CARROLL: The market is most of a way to boost safety and commerce, rather than development. Having a large crowd out and about later in the day is a way to dissuade illicit activity.
SUNAH SHIN: Does the multi-cultural performance redevelop the community?
GREG CARROLL: It helps publicize Uptown’s incredible diversity.
All photos (left column) courtesy of Argyle Market search through Google online.