For nearly a century, American Indian jewelers, potters and other artists have been gathering in the heart of northern New Mexico to show off their creations at one of the nation’s most prestigious art markets.
The annual Santa Fe Indian Market begins Saturday as organizers push ahead with raising the bar for showcasing what they say are the best examples of art that has evolved from centuries-old traditions.
Some artists and their families have participated for years, but this marks the first time organizers have shifted entirely to a juried application process that has resulted in fierce competition.
Organizers say the result is more fair than the system that used to exist, said Dallin Maybee, chief operating officer of the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, which presents the market each year.
“The process allows us to jury and select people simply based on the weight and competitiveness of their work. Tribal affiliation, age, medium – it doesn’t factor in anymore,” he said.
About 935 artists were selected this year. Many are from pueblos throughout New Mexico and the Navajo Nation while others are traveling from as far as Alaska, Montana, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Events related to Native film, literature and fashion are scheduled throughout the week leading up to the market. Here are some more things to know:
While much of the art showcased at the market is based on methods and styles used by tribes for generations, more modern narratives have been finding their way into the pieces and the work has been evolving. Maybee pointed to pottery designs and changes in textiles.
“I think the perception was that we were always a traditional show and that’s just not the case,” he said. “We do have art forms that are very old in terms of techniques and materials but for decades and decades our artists have been exploring new ways of presenting those things.”
In 2015, the market started the Edge Contemporary Show for those Native artists focused on fine art with a more modern flair.
Acknowledging the popularity of the contemporary work, he said: “We’ll keep moving in those directions. I think there’s room and space for all the different types of art forms to find a place at Indian Market.”
FILM AND FASHION
In conjunction with the market, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian will present its annual Native Cinema Showcase throughout the week, highlighting more than 50 feature-length and short films created by Native artists.
The Haute Couture Fashion Show on Saturday will include work inspired by the diverse backgrounds of designers across Indian Country. That will be followed Sunday by a clothing competition in which models will show off traditional and contemporary styles.
The festivities typically attract about 100,000 people to Santa Fe for the week, resulting in an estimated economic impact of about $80 million.
Through the juried process, Maybee says visitors get to see a level of fine art beyond craft fairs and powwows. And with so many accomplished artists applying each year, space simply runs out.
For casual collectors, Maybee says they buy what speaks to them and aren’t too concerned about the backstory. For others, it can be a cultural education.
“That’s one of the best things about Indian Market, they can engage directly with these artists and talk to them about their culture, about their identity and where they found these narratives and how they’re interpreting them. It’s really a beautiful process,” he said.
If You Go…
SANTA FE INDIAN MARKET: Related events are planned throughout Santa Fe. Here is a link to the schedule and ticketing information: http://swaia.org/Indian_Market/2017_Schedule_and_Tickets/index.html
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