Sunday, August 31, 2014

There’s a New Fair in Town: IFAM

SWAIA, the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, is responsible for the Annual Indian Market in Santa Fe.  They boast around 1,000 artists and get credit for bringing about 170,000 tourists to the Market every year, with the vast majority being tourists.   As so often happens in organizations there was a conflict between the director of SWAIA, John Torres-Nez and his board of directors so he quit. 

Then several other key members of the staff quit after him so I am guessing that there actually may have been a legitimate grievance.  They began to organize immediately to start their own Fair “by the Indians for the Indians” as they like to say.  They called it IFAM, The Indigenous Fine Arts Market. Obtaining space in the Rail Yard near contemporary art galleries and the Farmers Market, they scheduled it for Thursday through Saturday of the same week-end when Indian Market occupies the center of town Saturday and Sunday.

Judging by what they have accomplished it looks like it may be a success.  The first year of any fair is rocky.  On opening morning a number of booths were still being set up and a few artists were left without booths.  Cara Romero, a photographer, made the best of not yet having her booth by taking her fine art photos out of a case one by one to show those interested which was far more intriguing that just having them up on a make-shift wall.  Her husband a well-known ceramicist, Diego Rivera, who even has a piece in the Metropolitan Museum, was AWOL because several of his pieces cracked in the firing and he was busily working so that he would have work ready for Indian Market on the weekend.

It is more than your life’s worth to try to speak with an artist right before these markets because they are frantically working until the very last minute.  If they are “hot” artists such as Diego they are virtually assured of selling out and leaving early.  Not only are booths sometimes devoid of work by an artist who has not shown up or is not ready yet, but by the end of the fair a booth might be empty because the artist sold out.

Sign of a Successful Market

There was another issue at IFAM because it was a renegade show from some points of view and it was certainly the new show in town.  Many artists wanted to cover their bets and participate in both IFAM and Indian Market.  This happens in dealer fairs as well.  The problem was that the shows overlapped and it is difficult, as my father always said, “to sit with one bottom at two weddings!”   Wisely the organizers put all the artists who planned to exhibit at both shows in one section so that on the overlapping day the main group would be together with no gaps.  They also invited younger artists giving them the opportunity to exhibit to a new and appreciative audience and they were more liberal in the kind of work that would be acceptable.

As would be the case with any new show, IFAM had many less visitors than Indian Market but it also had only a third of the exhibitors.   It had additional bad luck in the weather: on their second day it rained most of the time.  Still it seemed successful enough that it could very well continue as long as the organizers have the will and finances.

In spite of its long history Indian Market had its organizing issues as well.  We met two  artists who were not assigned booths even though they had paid for them.  One was even left out of the program all together and he has participated for over 20 years that we know of!   The organization also seemed to have run out of funds so no 2nd and 3rd place prizes were awarded which is a double whammy for the artists.  First they have no chance to win the prize money but without a prize ribbon they do not have as much of a chance to sell their works of art.

The greatest testament that I can make to the overall success of the fairs is that we bought at both.   We acquired an unusual Katsina, a Female Crossed Legged Katsina, at IFAM by the artist, John Fredericks, who made the first one our son acquired 24 years ago.

At Indian Market we acquired a superbly beaded bracelet by Teri Greeves and a basket tiled “Seductive Poison” by Shan Goshorn, (link to blog about her) woven with the speech by the Carlisle Indian School founder coining the motto “Kill the Indian and save the Man”.   I would have to write a second Missive to tell you all the pieces we would have liked to buy!

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