Most of the time when seeking out one of these retail locations that is truly Michigan-centric, we skip the malls. It’s hard to find too many local shops that can afford the higher rent that comes with being alongside the big box stores and national chains. Art Is In Market, is one of the rare exceptions.

It is in fact the mall atmosphere that first attracted creator and president, Debbie La Pratt, to open a retail location. Like most artists, each year she would look for quality shows in which to display and sell her work. Eventually, the travel, set-ups, tear-downs, etc., became tiresome. It was exceptionally difficult during the holiday season because that prime sales periods mostly required weekend shows, taking her away from friends and family.

One day, while walking through a local mall, La Pratt got the idea to create a shared retail space with other artists. The concept was to open for a couple months around Christmas and fill the store with her own work and many of her artist friends. They would share time selling their own and each others’ creations, thereby getting them off of the road for the holiday season. She called a mall who took her up on the idea and Art Is In Market got its start in Livonia’s Laurel Park Mall in 2005.

The original intention was to close up once the holidays were over, but the response was so great that customers persuaded La Pratt to extend her lease. Now, the Laurel Park location has given way to a large, vibrant shop in 12 Oaks Mall in Novi, as well as two others in Ann Arbor and Clinton. Her son, Brian, who resides in Nashville is extending the concept to Tennessee artists with a location there as well.

There are a wide range of art forms represented including: ceramics, culinary creation, fashion design, fiber arts, jewelry, metal work, painting, woodworking, and writing. Whether you’re seeking MI-themed items like pillows, handbags, tee shirts, walling hangings, coasters, and glassware, or just unique items that happened to be made in Michigan, you can find it here.

One of the truly fun things about shopping at Art Is In Market is the fact that, while many lines of merchandise remain familiar, individual pieces are constantly changing. That means you’ll likely continue to find work from companies like Anderson Metal Art or Iconic Detroit each time you visit, but exactly which pieces changes from time to time.

Availability to sell art in the different locales varies, but the process remains the same. Interested artists are asked to complete an online form in which they briefly describe their work, include a Facebook page or website, and answer just a few questions regarding desired location and availability for an interview.

After the application is received and reviewed, the artist will be contacted for an in-person interview. The applicant is asked to bring some samples of his/her work to the interview, where they will also learn details about the terms and conditions, expectations, fees, etc. The art then goes through a juried selection process to evaluate the fit within the desired location. Each collection is carefully curated to provide a unique shopping experience and a wide variety of artists. The work of more than 150 artists is represented throughout Art Is In Market. Once an artist is invited to participate they will then be offered an agreement to sign and begin training.

The fact that most of the participating artists reduce their monthly rental fees for their space by working an agreed upon amount of hours in the shop each month, is another unique aspect of this retail concept. That creates a completely different buying experience, certainly unique from most mall experiences. It’s art being sold by artists so they take great pride not only in their own work, but in understanding the work of their fellow creators. If you’re lucky enough to make a purchase from an artist who is currently on site, it’s not uncommon to ask him/her to sign the piece.

The next time you’re in 12 Oaks looking for something to add flair to your home or wardrobe, bypass the ordinary chains and stop in for this extraordinarily unique shopping opportunity. You’ll also find a seemingly endless array of gift options, especially for whom it is difficult to buy.

While in 12 Oaks I’m happy to note you can find some delightful treats on which to dine while still keeping your dollars local. Stop by the food court for some of the best soup in the state along with delicious salads and sandwiches from Zoup! Fresh Soup Company. You can also find scrumptious breakfast items, sandwiches, and of course hot dogs at Kerby’s Koney Island. If you’re hankering for a sweet treat, you cannot go wrong with a stop at that local legend, Sanders.

Art Is In Market at 12 Oaks is open Sun 11AM-6PM; Mon-Sat 10AM-9PM. Hours are based on mall hours and may vary during the holiday season. It is located near Macy’s on the Upper Level of 12 Oaks Mall at 27500 Novi Rd, Novi, MI 48377.

Other locations include The Mall at Partridge Creek at 17420 Hall Rd, Charter Township of Clinton, MI 48038; and Briarwood Mall at 100 Briarwood Cir, Ann Arbor, MI 48108.

Author: Lisa Diggs

Lisa Diggs is a writer, speaker, entrepreneur, business consultant, avid traveler, and founder of The Catalyst Company, LLC, Michigan Positivity Project, and Buy Michigan Now.