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From the get-go, the Bywater Art Market (www.BywaterArtMarket.com) has been a success that exceeded the expectations of even its founders. In 2002, when art conservator Blake Vonder Haar organized the first of the now-monthly, open-air events as a way to bring together artists and collectors -- minus the gallery mark-up -- it was met with rave reviews.

"At the time, there were no [regular] venues for artists except Jackson Square, which is tourist oriented, so we decided to give it a try and see what happened," recalls Vonder Haar, who is both director of the market and president of New Orleans Conservation Guild Inc. "It was very successful and was a lot of fun. It gained its own momentum and took off from there."

Today, the market, which features only original art by regional artists, is enjoying greater support than ever. Since Katrina, the number of artists has been scaled back by half, yet sales have nearly tripled and attendance is growing.

Spurred by a powerful, post-Katrina interest in Louisiana art coupled with an inescapable, post-Katrina need to renew and refurbish, Vonder Haar says increasing numbers of collectors are investing in the local arts scene. With its unique focus on originality and professionalism, Bywater Art Market offers collectors easy access to quality works in a variety of mediums. The market chooses its participating artists through a juried process and targets art collectors rather than festivalgoers as customers. It also places an emphasis on affordability, a plus for both buyers and artists.

Held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the third Saturday of each month in Mickey Markey Park (corner of Royal and Piety streets), Bywater Art Market includes paintings, glass, pottery, metal work, woodworking, photography, jewelry, food and artist demonstrations. DeSoto Street Band will play at the Oct. 21 market.

Healthy day
St. Tammany Parish Hospital (1202 S. Tyler St., Covington, 985-898-4043) will hold its annual Senior Wellness Fair from 8 a.m. to noon Oct. 20, where seniors can receive screenings, flu and pneumonia shots with their Medicare card. In honor of National Mammography Day Oct. 20, the hospital's Breast Center (201 St. Ann Drive, Suite A, Mandeville, 985-612-2100) will host an open house from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to promote breast health and address other women's health issues.

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