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Expanded Santa Fe Indian Market offers more events, better understanding of arts

Santa Fe Indian Market annually recognizes the best art exhibited. (Journal)
Santa Fe Indian Market annually recognizes the best art exhibited. (Journal)
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All eyes turn to Santa Fe each August for the best in Indian art at the world-renowned Santa Fe Indian Market where Native American artists and collectors gather in the historic streets surrounding the Plaza of New Mexico’s capital city.

The market, which for one weekend transforms historic Santa Fe into a colorful, crowded city of tent galleries, is celebrating its 89th year, continuing a tradition of honoring traditional and contemporary native art.

Increasing attention is being paid to less familiar native arts such as literature and film.

While the market itself is a two-day celebration of the finest in visual arts — everything from handcrafted jewelry to hand-painted pots — the bustling marketplace where buyers start lining up at dawn is really the culmination of a full year of effort and collaboration that increasingly involves active community partners throughout Santa Fe.

Numerous events have taken place in the months leading up to market weekend, reflecting a new approach to Indian Market. The dozens of preliminary and post market happenings include a series of native arts authenticity luncheon lectures, modern art and design exhibits, excursions and art fairs, a film series, literary discussions and gallery openings. Most are open to the general public for a nominal fee or are free.

More and more, the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, the sponsoring organization for Indian Market, is establishing activities intended to keep the spirit of market alive year-round, according to Gabe Gomez, director of marketing and public relations.

The newly dubbed SWAIA 365 approach is an extension of the existing Indian Market programs into film, literature and other art forms, says Gomez. Many of these burgeoning programs, most educational in nature, are expected to run year-round, he adds.

“In short, SWAIA has become a yearlong presence,” Gomez says. “We’ve partnered with key community partners such as Collected Works Bookstore, the Center for Contemporary Arts and Legends Santa Fe to help us realize the programs.”

Expanded conversation

The new programming is intended not only as an educational tool for artists and collectors, but also as a way to increase the conversation time between patrons and artists that has always been a hallmark of Indian Market.

The success of Indian Market already is strongly linked and interwoven with many of the city’s hotels, galleries, restaurants and other businesses, says Gomez. The year-round approach helps to provide additional opportunities for artists to showcase their works.

For traditional weekend Indian Market revelers, there will be few changes.

The market officially opens with a  prayer and blessing. Artist booths will radiate out from Santa Fe’s central Plaza, showcasing the works of Native American artists hailing from New Mexico to Alaska.

Many of the faithful participants call Indian Market a “family reunion” of artists and collectors as friendships are rekindled each year, new clients buy their first pieces and talented novice artists begin a livelihood that may support them for the rest of their lives.

For collectors, it’s a chance to not only buy, but to also enjoy the highest quality in juried Indian art. A dozen categories encompass jewelry, textiles, basketry, beadwork, paintings and more.

New events preceding market weekend are meant to renew and expand perceptions about native art forms and cultures, according to Gomez.

Packed calendar

A full calendar of events to expand visitors’ enjoyment of Indian Market as they explore the city in the days immediately preceding market weekend can be found at www.swaia.org.

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