100 Dallas Creatives: No 67 Community Architect Monica Diodati

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Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. Know an artistic mind who deserves a little bit of blog love? Email lauren.smart@dallasobserver.com with the whos and whys. Dallas isn't exactly known as a haven for grassroots movements. Farmer's markets face constant obstacles despite rising popularity, the downtown sector is renowned big business, and mom and pop shops seem to be restricted to some of Dallas' smaller neighborhoods.

But Dallas is knee deep in a transition stage. And, admittedly, transitions can be rough--legislation takes time to catch up, new ideas are constantly bubbling up and new blood constantly pushes forward.

In Dallas, there isn't blood much younger than Monica Diodati. Even at such a young age, this local advocate has been the mastermind behind both the Design District Market and the burgeoning Little D Farmers Market in Trinity Groves. Oh, and she's only 25.

The two events differ slightly in their production but fulfill a similar purpose. While the Design Destrict Market aims to assemble craftsmen and artisans to sell their wares in a block-party like atmosphere, the Farmer's Market is bringing local, farm-fresh produce to one of the fastest growing areas in Dallas. The next Design District Market takes place Saturday, August 23 at the Dallas Contemporary and the next Little D Farmer's Market will be September 7.

Both of these recurring events mark a shift in Dallas that has been going on in more progressive parts of the country for years now--a movement towards community-oriented markets and gatherings. And they are part of a small, growing group of similar events in Dallas.

But Diodati isn't doing this just for a kick-ass time and some sweet, organic veggies. While she may be able to plan a poppin' neighborhood shindig, Diodati's goal is to bring the 'hood together and foster cohesion and community.

You're trying to make the Design District Market into more of a monthly shindig, what are some challenges you've experienced there? Well, it's a lot of work. I think that the consistency is good for keeping up the momentum about the event and maintaining the followers that we already have. I think quarterly was a lot harder for people to know when the next one was. I just need to carve out the time for it to be a monthly event. I have a full time job and I also run the farmer's market at Trinity Grove and I cofounded the group called RAFT that does events in the Trinity. It's been a little difficult just planning enough for it to be a consistent thing but one of my goals is to make that happen.

Do the experiences you get from your other ventures help to hone the Design District Market? It kind of helps to gauge the demand for stuff like this in Dallas, which is really huge. There's the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market which started it all, and Brandon [Castillo] helped me start the Design District Market. But other than that, Dallas could use more stuff like this.

Has the neighborhood been receptive to the market? The attendees like it a lot. A lot of the retail and restaurants that are in the Design District also like it because it brings foot traffic and makes it--at least for one day--a little more pedestrian friendly. How have you dealt with the growth of the market? I think the biggest thing you want is for everyone to have fun and stick around. We don't want them to just come, check it out and then leave. That's why we add that fun, interesting element every time. We just try to make sure we have enough vendors or that we never run out of beer.

Have you run out of beer!? No, we haven't run out of beer yet. We ran out of cups a few times.

So why the Design District? I originally got interested in it because I worked for a commercial real estate office in the Design District. So as a way to market properties I started doing pop up art shows on vacant properties and stuff like that. I started realizing all of the shop owners were showing up and saying "Hey, I wish more stuff like this would happen over here." That's when I was like "nothing's really going on west of Downtown." That was before Trinity Groves happened. There's definitely a market for it and demand.

Did your experiences with the Design District Market sort of open your eyes to other areas which could use such events? I think there's just a lot of under-utilized space that could become like a really cool public space for everyone to hang out--like a big parking lot or empty streets. Like the farmer's market in Trinity Groves, we just set up in the gravel lot in front of the restaurants that wouldn't really be used for anything. It made me realize that otherwise this would have been an eyesore, but it's really easy and fun to turn it into a free, public gathering place. 100 Creatives: 100. Theater Mastermind Matt Posey 99. Comedy Queen Amanda Austin 98. Deep Ellum Enterpriser Brandon Castillo 97. Humanitarian Artist Willie Baronet 96. Funny Man Paul Varghese 95. Painting Provocateur Art Peña 94. Magic Man Trigg Watson 93. Enigmatic Musician George Quartz 92. Artistic Luminary Joshua King 91. Inventive Director Rene Moreno 90. Color Mavens Marianne Newsom and Sunny Sliger 89. Literary Lion Thea Temple 88. Movie Maestro Eric Steele 87. Storytelling Dynamo Nicole Stewart 86. Collaborative Artist Ryder Richards 85. Party Planning Print maker Raymond Butler 84. Avant-gardist Publisher Javier Valadez 83. Movie Nerd James Wallace 82. Artistic Tastemakers Elissa & Erin Stafford 81. Pioneering Arts Advocates Mark Lowry & Michael Warner 80. Imaginative Director Jeremy Bartel 79. Behind-the-Scenes Teacher Rachel Hull 78. Kaleidoscopic Artist Taylor "Effin" Cleveland 77. Filmmaker & Environmentalist Michael Cain 76. Music Activist Salim Nourallah 75. Underground Entrepreneur Daniel Yanez 74. Original Talent Celia Eberle 73. Comic Artist Aaron Aryanpur 72. Classical Thespian Raphael Parry 71. Dance Captain Valerie Shelton Tabor 70. Underground Culture Mainstay Karen X. Minzer 69. Effervescent Gallerist Brandy Michele Adams 68. Birthday Party Enthusiast Paige Chenault

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