Holiday Thieves’ Market Takes Place First Weekend in December | Emulating Parisian Markets of a Century Ago

By Lauren Wallace

The UI Fine Arts Council’s Holiday Thieves’ Market will take place in the Iowa Memorial Union on the University of Iowa Campus.

In the early 20th century in Paris, France, struggling artists used to exhibit their artwork on the West Bank. It is even said that the place where they exhibited was dubbed the “Thieves’ Market” as stolen goods were also rumored to be disposed of there.

Fast forward one hundred years to University of Iowa’s Holiday Thieves’ Market in Iowa City. While you will not find stolen goods, the vast array of skillfully handcrafted artwork that will be on display in the Iowa Memorial Union on December 7 and 8, will make you feel like you’re walking the streets of Paris.

The Holiday Thieves’ Market is an annual art exhibition put on by the University’s Fine Arts Council. It all started back in 1970, when a small group of students were inspired by the idea of a Parisian thieves’ market. The students joined together for a sale of their own work, which quickly expanded to include artists from all over the Midwest and beyond. The council still offers students a chance to display their work at a discounted rate.

Along with student work, you will find handcrafted art in all media: painting, ceramics, photography, woodworking, drawing, metal, glass, jewelry, fiber, and more.  Artists are selected by jury, which allows for a different selection each year and ensures a variety of high quality art for every show.

The Holiday Thieves’ Market gives patrons the chance to meet each artist and ask about the artist’s work and the context behind each piece. Each work of art is alive with the artist’s vision and dedication, an aspect that cannot be manufactured or mass-produced.  

thieves market piano

Shoppers will enjoy holiday piano music.

“The Holiday Thieves’ Market is the best place to find the perfect gifts for the holidays,” says Executive Director Brenda Aguirre. “The council provides everything needed to create just the right atmosphere to shop for your loved ones—a pianist to play holiday music, a free wine tasting by local vendors, decorations, and the like.”

The annual wine tasting has been a part of the show for three years now. It’s a great cultural addition and a great way to relax during a break from shopping. The wine tasting will take place on Saturday, December 7, from 12–2 p.m., and will feature wineries such as Glazer’s Distributing, Ardon Creek Winery, and Fireside Winery.

thieves market wine

A wine tasting will be held on Saturday, December 7.

The Holiday Thieves’ Market is open 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturday, December 7, and 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Sunday, December 8. This event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit or call (319) 335-3393.