SANTA FE, N.M. — More than 300 people have signed an online petition to form a new Santa Fe Indian Market led by John Torres Nez, who in late March resigned as chief operating officer from the Southwest Association for Indian Arts, which currently directs the market.
The petition, on www.change.org, calls for a stable, fiscally responsible organization leading the annual market, at which many Native American artists make a large portion of their annual income.
“Ultimately, we want a new market that is stable in both organization and structure so that Native artists will have a livelihood for generations from now,” it states.
Many artists have rallied behind Torres Nez since his resignation, which he said was related to his “fiduciary duties,” upon which he did not elaborate.
Not long after, SWAIA sent a news release acknowledging it had cash flow difficulties, leading to a four-day workweek and reduction in pay for staffers, along with creation of a line of credit with a local bank, guaranteed personally by two of the organization’s board members.
However, the organization added that the situation is not unusual — cash flow is always seasonal with that organization, whose major activity is running the Santa Fe Indian Market each August.
The board has contended it had no idea Torres Nez intended to resign and had no discussion with him about that step prior to him taking it. The SWAIA news release said Torres Nez “was not forced or coerced into resignation by anyone.”
However, the online petition claims that Torres Nez “informed the Board of financial problems and SWAIA’s systemic problems,” the board failed to act and did not support him. It also claims that Charlene Porsild has been ineffective as as chief development officer.
But SWAIA said in its release: “Both John and Charlene provided great ideas and changes to better Santa Fe Indian Market, with enthusiastic board support.”
The petition complains that the board is not transparent and does not feel accountable to any constituency, and that only SWAIA members can sit in on meetings, which often are closed to everyone if “personnel, legal or sensitive management issues” are raised.
“The SWAIA board has been unstable for many years. There have been seven directors in the 15 years prior to 2007, when Bruce Bernstein was made director. He hired John as Director of Artist Services and as Deputy Director, and they instituted many positive changes. And that positivity continued to evolve under John’s leadership in 2012,” the petition states.
The new proposal calls for more direct artist involvement in board decisions, with a focus on the artists “and not the organization’s own branding,” as well as reworking “a Native arts market’s relationship with the City of Santa Fe that is benefiting for the artists.”