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Friend Fest Showcases 275 Artists and Makers from San José and Beyond

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An artist vendor stands at his booth of stickers and art prints.
Eric Bui, also known as lolwtferic, at Friend Fest 2023.  (Courtesy of San José Made)

Though Oakland and San Francisco get a lot of shine when it comes to arts in the Bay Area, there’s a vibrant South Bay creative community — over 275 members of which will showcase and sell their works at the upcoming Friend Fest, produced by San José Made, a platform that uplifts the South Bay’s artisans and makers. 

The free event comes to the San José Convention Center’s South Hall on Feb. 24 and 25, and features art prints, ceramics, handmade jewelry, candles, stickers, enamel pins, snacks, desserts and more. And with a name that celebrates loved ones and chosen family, Friend Fest offers activities to do with a squad — a Y2K-themed photo booth for nostalgic, airbrushed-looking portraits, keychain and friendship bracelet-making stations and a community love letter wall.

Kevin Biggers of San José Made says the goal is not only to uplift local small business, but to foster a sense of community that still feels disrupted by the pandemic. It’s also about South Bay pride.

“We want the people who craft the vision … of how our city is represented and perceived, both internally and externally, to be local creatives,” he says.

Shoppers look at two artist vendor booths.
Vendors Panty Cat and Sherry Lou Studio at Friend Fest 2023. (Courtesy of San José Made)

Biggers says Friend Fest’s vendor base is diverse and leans heavily Asian American and Latine, just like San José itself. He also notes that there’s a strong contingent of LGBTQ+ artists.

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In addition to Friend Fest, San José Made runs an online marketplace (basically, a South Bay version of Etsy) and a pop-up program that gets makers into empty storefronts. It also operates three brick-and-mortar shops called MOMENT: one in Japantown, one in downtown San José and one in the Google Visitor Experience in Mountain View.

Biggers is careful to note that although Friend Fest celebrates community, it’s also perfectly OK to come alone and, who knows, maybe make a new connection: “I think certainly it’s possible, just given the general vibes of the event, for that to happen organically.”

Friend Fest takes place at South Hall in San José on Feb. 24 and 25, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free, all ages. Details and full list of vendors here

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