Katie Mabry van Dieren, curator and founder of the Strawberry Swing and the Troost Market Collective, answers The Pitch Questionnaire
As curator and owner of the Strawberry Swing, Kansas City’s beloved indie craft fair, Katie Mabry van Dieren has helped put #shoplocal on the map around here since taking over from founder Heather Baker in 2014. But van Dieren also has a new nonprofit that’s already showing a lot of promise: the Troost Market Collective.
You may have noticed some new murals around the 31st and Troost area? Troost Market Collective — on which van Dieren has partnered with Crissy Dastrup — fostered the creation of those works, each of which were painted by local, community-based artists. The nonprofit has been working closely with the KC Catalytic Urban Redevelopment Initiative over the past two years and hopes to open up the first Troost makerspace by the beginning of 2019. On Saturday, September 22, the organization is hosting Troostapalooza, a celebration of art, culture, music, local food and drink, and community. We asked van Dieren about that and more.
Instagram: @strawberryswingkc and @troostmarketcollective
Current neighborhood: 49/63 — Troost Avenue Lawn
Tell me about the beginnings of the Strawberry Swing. The Swing was started in August of 2011, eight years ago, and was formed from an Etsy team of KC makers lead by Heather Baker. I took over the Swing in 2014. We didn’t have anything like it in the Midwest that celebrated the handmade movement, and Strawberry Swing did just that. It is now one of the top indie craft fairs in the world.
What’s changed over the last eight years? There were only 16 makers at the First Holiday Swing, and I was one of them. Last year, we had more than 125 makers. It’s so fun, and everyone involved is just lovely and lighthearted, from the musicians to the food truck owners to the makers. I’ve watched countless local stores open up that sell the makers’ products since 2014, and it’s so wonderful to see our city come out and support its small businesses.
What is your craft? And what isn’t? I love all the crafts! I sell jewelry, stationary, and sometimes baby accessories on my Etsy site, but I don’t have much time to create new products because running the Swing and co-founding a non-profit and being a mom and a wife doesn’t leave me with much spare time. Some of my product photos on my Etsy site were taken in 2013 with an iPhone 4, if that gives you an idea.
Tell me more about the Troost Market Collective. Its mission is to create equitable economic opportunity for creative entrepreneurs, inspiring future generations through innovative partnerships and programming. We envision a diverse community hub of creativity and expression where all people are able to be their most true selves, are empowered to expand local economies, and can enrich the landscape for all in participation.
Where are the Troost Market Collective’s new murals? We moved two of the original murals on the north end of the street into Thelma’s Kitchen at 31st and Troost, which is KC’s first donate-what-you-can cafe. There are two new murals in their place, so make sure you visit our Instagram or go visit them in person. Also, look forward to us crossing the street and participating in a new project at the Firestone Building at Linwood and Troost.
How are you keeping diversity at the forefront of the conversation on Troost, and what are you doing to make sure minority artists and voices are heard? In forming TMC, we were intentional on who we brought in to lead our board. Our board members are diverse, with strong ties to the community. The Community Mural Project is a way to highlight our city’s diversity as well. Street art is one of the greatest forms of protest and of letting voices be heard. We invited people we met on the street and artists who had a tie to Troost to share what the past, present, or future of Troost meant to them on the walls between Linwood and 31st on Troost.
What’s going on with Troostapalooza? Troostapalooza aims to celebrate the community, bringing together neighbors, small businesses, and entrepreneurs to engage with attendees. It serves as a means to coalesce the community and raise awareness and funds for the nonprofits along the corridor with the support of local businesses. It’s a free, family-friendly event located on Troost between 29th and 30th streets.
What gets you on your soapbox? #shoplocal and #shopsmall. And, in this climate of America, I cannot not speak up and out about the inequalities in our country. The historical inaction and intentional divestment that benefited white men and impacted all businesses on the Troost corridor led us to where we are today. As a privileged white woman, I feel called to action.
What’s your guilty pleasure? Mezcal cocktails.
What would you tell your younger self? Don’t suck your thumb; it will give you buck teeth.
What’s the best advice you ever got? Though I never met him in person, and he’s been dead more than 100 years, I tend to use a WWMTD (What Would Mark Twain Do) attitude when it comes to making decisions: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
What is the last thing you laughed at? My two-year-old Teddy. He is full of beans. He literally gave himself a mud bath in the rain last night, and it was glorious … until I had to give him a real bath.
What’s your greatest struggle right now? TIME MANAGEMENT. Help, please?