Santa Fe International Folk Art Market Opens in July

The largest event of its kind attracts tens of thousands each year

By Denise Darcel
Epoch Times Staff
Created: June 30, 2012 Last Updated: July 5, 2012
Related articles: Life » Slice of Life
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The Santa Fe International Folk Art Market on Museum Hill. (Bob Smith)

The Santa Fe International Folk Art Market on Museum Hill. (Bob Smith)

One way of fostering tradition is handing the family quilt down to your son or daughter; another is to dream of having your ancestral craft flourish before a multitude of people and watch them embrace it in awe.

This contemporary field of dreams can be found at the 9th annual Santa Fe International Folk Art Market from July 13 to 15.

Over 170 master artists and traditional craftsmen and women from more than 50 countries are bringing their cultural artistry to showcase and sell. The market offers an unparalleled opportunity for visitors to collect treasures from around the globe and to meet the artists who created them.

Last year, a record number of people, well over 20,000, attended the market.

Market visitors can expect a huge array of handmade arts and crafts, like the delicate bouquets of flowers woven from horsehair by a Chilean artist, intricate patterned jewelry designed by an Israeli artist, vibrant shawls by Kandahar Treasure of Afghanistan, or steel oil drums turned into works of art by a Haitian artist.

One weekend in Santa Fe for these artists can radically change their lives and their communities, bringing financial benefits to both. Participating in the fair is also about preserving artistic traditions, many of which are ancient, and sharing unique cultures.

After past markets, artists have returned home to build schools, houses, and wells for clean drinking water, according to a press release. Actress Ali MacGraw—a longtime Santa Fe resident and supporter of the arts—calls it “monumental money.”

“Many of the artists come from developing countries where basic wages are less than $3 a day, and where political, social, and environmental hardships can make everyday life, not to mention the creation of art, challenging,” according to the art market’s press release.

Hindi quilters built a school in the Thar Desert of Pakistan and actively advocate for folk art preservation and recognition for folk artists, said Charlene Cerny, founder of the market.

“What I find so exciting for these artists is that participating in the market is not a handout; it’s commerce,” Cerny said. “This kind of entrepreneurship gives people the feeling that they are as competent and capable as anyone else.”

Aboubakar Fofana, an artist from Mali, creates indigo-dyed, hand-woven textiles. (Bob Smith)

Aboubakar Fofana, an artist from Mali, creates indigo-dyed, hand-woven textiles. (Bob Smith)

The numbers are impressive. At the past eight markets, artists have earned more than $12 million dollars. Last year, 90 percent of the market’s $2.3 million in sales went directly to the artists, or an average of $17,300 per booth, according to the release.

“I’ve followed the story of a family of women in Kabul who sell their embroidered goods at the market. These women can’t really leave their houses; they went from having rights to not having rights at all,” Cerny said.

“They told me, ‘Our silk embroideries are our voice to the world.’ I find that the interconnection of creativity and economic freedom is unbelievable. We have 1,600 volunteers now; this is no longer a grassroots effort. We want to express our gratitude.”

One artist spoke of his family’s tradition of glassblowing. He’s from the city of Hebron, on the West Bank, south of Jerusalem. He traces his craft back to antiquity between the 2nd and 4th century B.C. His family has earned a substantial amount of money at the market and helps other family members back home.

A Niger silversmith made enough money at last year’s market to buy three months’ worth of food for over 500 people in nearby villages.

International Flavor

A wide-open view of the Montana sky and Sangre de Cristo mountains is the backdrop for these master artists to present their creations amid a global whirlwind of food, music, and dancing.

Sita Devi Karna, an artist from the Janakpur Women’s Development Center in Nepal, demonstrates her work at the market. (Bob Smith)

Sita Devi Karna, an artist from the Janakpur Women’s Development Center in Nepal, demonstrates her work at the market. (Bob Smith)

The scent of Ethiopian lamb stews and coconut shrimp waft through the mountain air while Greek dolmas and other foods from around the world top off the available menu.

The experience is similar to world travel: Mind-opening and inspiring, it helps to develop one’s sense of what it means to be human and an appreciation for the journey we’ve traveled as a race.

Visitors last year included “ambassadors from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, representatives from UNESCO and the Clinton Global Initiative, and scores of Peace Corps volunteers.” “Designers from Donna Karan, Martha Stewart, and West Elm also shopped the Market,” according to the press release.

Obviously the market is much more than a shopping opportunity. People of different nations that otherwise would not extend the olive branch to each other share an exchange of riches.

“I had the chance to share information, knowledge, and experiences with all of the staff and participants from all over the world,” said Karim Oukid Ouksel, an Algerian jewelry maker who attended last year’s Market. “I also had the chance to discover firsthand the works produced by the American Indians, which have left a remarkable impression.”

Planning a Visit

The Santa Fe International Folk Art Market opens on the evening of July 13 and runs through July 15 at the beautiful Milner Plaza on Santa Fe’s renowned Museum Hill.

To tie into the folk art market, Santa Fe celebrates Folk Arts Week, kicking off Friday, July 6, with festivities that include an international film festival at the Center for Contemporary Arts and public events at both the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and the Museum of International Folk Art.

“This is not about poverty versus money,” said Judith Espinar, co-founder and creative director of the market. “This is about … people coming together to exchange their riches. The richest part of the experience is the interaction between the people who buy these things and the people who made these things.”

More than 40 percent of artisans in this year’s market are new participants, including craftspeople from Hungary, South Sudan, Uganda, and Vanuatu. Many popular artists will be returning, including basket weavers from Rwanda, bead workers from Haiti, embroidery artists from India, potters from France, and jewelers from Niger.

The market’s selection committee, made up of experts, including representatives from leading international museums and universities, carefully vets the work for quality and traditionalism.

For ticket sales and more detailed information go to

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