Sunday, August 29, 2021

The Natives Have Returned

Of course, I am speaking of the Native Americans who have returned for Indian Market in Santa Fe which could not be held last year. Many of the Pueblos are still closed to Anglos for Dances and Feast Days but since Indian Market is outside and most of our population is vaccinated, we are as safe as you can be these days. There are still mask mandates inside. As far as I can tell locals obey the rules more readily than those from New Mexico’s neighboring states.

To mention everything that goes on during what I call Indian Week (actually about 10 days) would be a list a blog long. I will focus on a couple of the events we attended.

The Ralph T. Coe Center for the Arts, where I am on the Board, has expanded its campus from the main exhibition building that houses the collection to an adjacent building which will be the Project Center. Here artists will be able to work, show visitors their techniques and display some of the pieces they make there. Therefore, taking advantage of Indian week we had a celebration of the opening of the Project Center.

The most exciting of the activities that evening was the performance of dancers from the Lightning Boy Foundation which teaches Native American young people (from the age of two up) the art of hoop dancing, not only instilling a Native tradition but also the discipline that you need in life. The great thing is that the kids really love the skill that they develop. Here is a video of a small part of one dance.

After all the hoops have been picked up they are connected in different arrangements, a butterfly, a horse, etc. Another image shows the dancer with the hoops shaped into a globe being photographed by well-known Native Photographer Will Wilson (also a Coe trustee) who set up a temporary dark room in the Project Center building.

Getting back to Indian Market, it is still very uncertain times so the Southwest Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) limited the number of booths to about 500 when some years there might be as many as a thousand. Still, with often more than one artist to a booth (there are often more than one artist in the family) there was plenty to see. Also, for the first time they were charging for tickets and were collecting them. Aside from those who signed up online, 3,000 visitors paid at the check points around the Plaza and connecting streets At the beginning of the morning most were wearing masks but later as more tourists arrived it was another matter. When one area became too packed, we just moved to a different spot.

There was so much to see and I just took a couple of photos. One of the prize winners signified by the ribbons he won for Pueblo Figurative Carvings and Sculpture was a Hopi, Arthur Homes, Jr. On the table you see two unfinished pieces and the prize winner on the left. Another photo I took because it was so unusual to see at Indian Market was a Cradle Board by Elias Not Afraid, from the Crow Nation in Montana. He exhibited in the category of Diverse Arts.

Aside from the art being sold one goes to see artist friends. We have known three generations of the Growing Thunder family, all gifted beadworkers. It was heartwarming just to be able to say hello once more. The matriarch, Joyce, was a close friend of Ted Coe, who had founded the Coe Center. There were three generations of the family exhibiting in two booths. A great honor for them considering many artists who had exhibited in the past could not ger in this year.

As SWAIA reduced the number of booths on the Plaza several other markets opened about town. It seemed that a number of artists booked or paid for more than one space, so if they were not juried into the SWAIA market, they could show their wares elsewhere. One small group of established artists who one would have thought would qualify, decided to set up booths around the Wheelwright Museum. This institution devoted to Indian art offered a more tranquil space on Museum Hill. We made it our first stop as did other knowledgeable collectors. Next to the courthouse downtown The “Free Market”, so-called because it charges no booth fees was extremely crowded; too much to be enjoyable, while a newly organized market in the parking lot of Buffalo Thunder, a resort north of town proved a disappointing experiment.

In the week before the SWAIA Indian Market dealers from around the country offered vintage material in markets at two different venues. Needless to say, many galleries in town show contemporary Native American Art and the top ones had, must see exhibitions.

I believe Santa Feans and collectors from all over, as well as all the artists, themselves were grateful to be together again.

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