Armadillo Christmas Bazaar (ACB) has changed a lot since its humble beginnings in 1976, and so has its perception.

Anne Johnson, Producer and GM, joined the ACB family when she was five years old so her understanding of the early years relies on mysteriously shrouded stories from the then inner circle.

It all began at Armadillo World Headquarters when Lucinda Williams told Bruce Willenzik, AWHQ kitchen manager, “too bad the artists down on the drag don’t have a warm, dry place like this to sell their art for Christmas.” AWHQ was Austin’s premiere concert venue, a counter-cultural institution known for out-of-the-box thinking and big shows including Willie Nelson, Jerry Garcia and Van Morrison. It was a magnet for creative energy and now, thanks to Lucinda and Bruce, the cultural hub expanded its influence into the art world.

2023 Armadillo Christmas Bazaar Stage. Photo by Jennifer M. Ramos.

At AWHQ and ACB’s next venues, including Austin Music Hall, the environment was more akin to a nightclub—focused on the music and the party, but showed great potential for growth throughout the decades.

Making the jump to the Convention Center in 2008 and then Palmer Events Center in 2010 opened a lot of doors for Armadillo—buyers felt comfortable spending more money, they upgraded from 8,000 sq. ft. to 44,000, and professional touring artists from around the country began to flock. ACB is still the only fine art show on the national circuit.

Nakatomi Inc at 2023 Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. Photo by Jennifer M. Ramos.

2010 also happened to be the year that Anne stepped into a producer role at the Bazaar. She had seen the growth and learned Bruce’s world to carry on the torch as an institution where Austin artists can step up to the national level. Anne’s goal is to identify up-and-coming talent to offer mentorship and materials to help them grow and find success at ACB and beyond.

Anne is full of advice. When I told her this issue is themed HYPE, she knew exactly what we were talking about: confidence. We launched into conversation and she ended with, “Buyers can see how you value your work and they’re going to mirror that. Perception is everything.”

2023 Armadillo Christmas Bazaar Booths. Photo by Jennifer M. Ramos.

Zooming out, we can find a parallel with ACB’s history. When they were a holiday party market, people partied. Now as a one-of-a-kind fine art institution featuring over 200 artists, people buy art. Of course they’ve also kept their music side thriving—four bands will perform each day this year. Plus, we at Almost Real Things will be bringing out some gifts and fun for this year’s interactive Armadillo Artway just outside the front doors from Dec 15–17.

2023 Armadillo Christmas Bazaar Photo Booth. Photo by Jennifer M. Ramos.

Throughout all of Austin’s growth, ACB has played to its strengths while staying flexible enough to stand the test of time. “I’m happy for Austin! I’m happy that the Bazaar has been able to grow with it. One of the wonderful things about new Austin is that we’re still here!”

Armadillo is back for their 48th season, with work by 181 artists and performances by 36 musical acts. Plan your trip between Dec 15–23: 11am–9:30pm daily at the Palmer Events Center. Almost Real Things will be there with a table full of activities and small gifts from Dec 15–17 as part of their brand new Armadillo Artway experience!


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