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Among the slew of outlet malls in Southwest Orlando, a unique shopping experience has emerged.

The Artegon Marketplace, an artisan marketplace that's been open since November 2014, has 165 shops and each vendor has a small area where they sell their own work, which can be anything from paintings to baked goods to pottery.

Artegon is in a wide space made up of small, metal cage-like enclosures where each vendor can decorate and display their work. Visitors can use the touchscreen maps to look through the different categories such as home goods, clothing and gardening to find exactly what they are looking for.

What makes Artegon different from shopping malls and flea markets is that around each corner are artists who are busy at work painting landscapes on canvases or doing magic tricks in hopes of engaging customers in the experience.

Meagan Fitzgerald, a junior psychology major, is the owner of Doki Doki Handmade. She sells bows and other accessories at Artegon and calls herself a "bowfessional."

"I started doing this because I worked at a restaurant and I'd buy hair bows for my hair and they were too expensive, so I started making them myself," Fitzgerald said.

The walls in Fitzgerald's booth are covered in ribbons and bows, which she makes herself. On her table, she keeps fabrics and sewing supplies.

"I started selling them online and I was doing really well, until last year my mom passed away and then I stopped doing it. I found out about this place and so basically I rebuilt this from scratch," she said.

Fitzgerald said that it is difficult for her to make it all the way to Artegon because she doesn't have a car, so she takes the bus. She manages work and school by taking classes online.

Kimberly Wyant, 49, a local artist who has been with her company KRaP Art for four years, said she believes there are plenty of opportunities for students to get involved at Artegon and take classes at the same time.

"There's a lot of possibility for internships. If they wanted to come and learn the retail side of it, or how to curate or sell their own art, I know that they could gain experience at an internship working for some of the artists here," Wyant said.

Wyant suggested that any student artists interested in getting involved come to Artegon and talk personally with the artists and vendors.

"There are people looking for that who can't be here all the time and can't necessarily pay somebody, but would love the opportunity to guide somebody and help train them to get into the art field," she said.

Wyant has been an artist all of her life, and she previously worked at Islands of Adventure as a sculptor and scenic painter.

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Each vendor has to be in his or her booth seven days per week, which can be difficult for a student to juggle with a class schedule.

But Miriam Medina, 32, another local artist and owner of GenkiGoth Studios, suggested that students who do not have time to be at Artegon every day lease a space with other artists and take turns running the space.

"There are still places available if people want to get more involved, and they're more than welcome to come by," Medina said. "Most people are pretty cool about asking questions here. Leasing will look and see what you have and they'll see if your stuff will fit or work well here. If they're really interested, the people at leasing are really awesome and really cool."

Students who wish to get involved at Artegon, or have any questions, can call the leasing office at (407) 351-7718.

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Alyssa Merwin is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.

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