Art in Unexpected Places: Kierland Commons pop-up festival kicks off holiday shopping

Art in Unexpected Places: Kierland Commons pop-up festival kicks off holiday shopping

By Jordan Houston

The POP: Art in Unexpected Places Festival is returning to Kierland Commons for its fifth year, offering the public a creative opportunity to shop, engage in culture, eat, and connect with the arts in a meaningful way.

The Kierland POP festival, presented by the Kierland Master Association, will offer a series of interactive art installations and experiences, including live art, music, philanthropy, culinary, wellness and more throughout Kierland Commons and the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa.

The festival is Saturday, November 6, and Sunday, November 7, at the shopping center, 15205 N. Kierland Boulevard. Hours of operation have not been determined.

The event is a product of the collaboration between Kierland Commons, the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, the Kierland Master Association and the Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance.

Known to have attracted over 15,000 visitors, this year’s attendees can expect to see performances and setups covering the entertainment gamut, according to SAACA Executive Director Kate Marquez.

“The name kind of describes it all,” she says. “You can be shopping in Anthropologie and in the corner you see a pop-up painter, or you’re getting something to eat at Shake Shack and see a Chinese line dance performance, or you’re walking down the sidewalk at Kierland Commons and see an eight-foot chalk art mural in front of you and violinists on the corners,” Marquez says.

“That type of experience you would have when you go somewhere like San Francisco or New York and you’re bombarded with painters on the street and musicians as you walk by that make you participate and experience art in creative ways.”

Visitors can also peruse the festival’s artisan market on Main Street, showcasing up to 40 artists and vendors selling a variety of handcrafted goods. Products for sale include candles, artisan foods, sculptures and paintings

For Marquez, the most rewarding part is the capacity to highlight local artists while strengthening the bonds between people, “place and purpose” through “collaborative, arts-driven experiences.”

“To me, that is what fills me up,” Marquez says. “And we get the opportunities to present that to the community in really dynamic ways so we can break down those participation barriers that exist in the art world. Having that opportunity to reshape people’s minds around arts and culture really allows for more dialogue in really connecting and meaningful ways.”

SAACA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and advancement of the arts, champions Marquez’s sentiments.

The nonprofit seeks to address the needs of artists by creating programming spotlighting local creatives while simultaneously extending opportunities to sell and profit from their work.

“We are a local nonprofit arts organization who primarily focuses most of our diverse programming in working directly with local artists of all genres, diversities and mediums,” Marquez says, citing filmmakers, digital designers, architects, musicians, visual artists, photographers and chefs, among others.

SAACA has created over 300,000 arts-driven experiences, from innovative community festivals and cultural celebrations to creative sector development, and accessible arts enrichment programs.

Marquez, who has been with SAACA for 15 years, attributes her motivation to join the movement to the organization’s tangible results seen throughout the local community.

“The inspiration really was to get to work with a kind of organization that I can see the impact locally, and that’s tough to do sometimes, whether it’s for-profit or nonprofit,” the executive director says.

“We actually get to interact with so many diverse cross sections of the community, from working with engineers and creative robotics teams to papier mache artists. It changes your view of humanity and kind of the piece where we see how the arts are so integral into everything we do, from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep.”

On the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kierland POP festival will operate this year in a “modified structure” to accommodate safety guidelines, according to Marquez.

All events and experiences will take place in an outdoor setting while promoting social distancing, local ordinance face mask restrictions and heightened sanitization for all shared spaces, she continues.

“We’ve definitely prioritized supporting individual artists in giving them opportunities that are safe and mostly a way for them to present and sell their work within the community,” she says.

Although a “solid list” detailing the 2021 festival performers has not yet been finalized, it is slated to be released in early October,

Marquez adds that the public “can rely on the fact that there is going to be the same levels of action.”

Once announced, the list will be available at

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