SANTA FE – Dallin Maybee has stepped down as a board member with the Southwest Association of Indian Arts to take over as interim chief operating officer, the organization announced Tuesday.
Maybee, who won Santa Fe Indian Market’s Best of Show award in 2007 with a pair of children’s books, said he looks forward to the board, staff and community coming together for the upcoming market “despite some speed bumps.”
Three staff members left SWAIA this spring, including chief operating officer John Torres Nez, after cutbacks in work hours to save money. They’ve created a new, competing Indigenous Fine Arts Market, which will have activities Aug. 21-23 in the Railyard. SWAIA’s Indian Market, which is entering its 93rd year of operation, will be held Aug. 23-24 on the Plaza.
“We’ve seen hiccups before,” Maybee said of SWAIA and Indian Market. “It’s time to get to work and make this thing happen.”
Maybee, who has a law degree, is Northern Arapaho and Seneca and was raised on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in western New York.
The split with the former employees included complaints that artists’ voices weren’t being heard and they were not being consulted or included in Indian Market decisions.
“If you’re concerned about having a voice, you need to speak up, frankly,” Maybee told the audience, which included several artists, at a news conference Tuesday at La Fonda.
He told the Journal afterward that in his previous 10 months on the board, “we didn’t hear from hardly anybody. Then we made some hard decisions and things got a little out of control.” The flow of donations and funding often slows down in the spring, he said, adding that this year was “a little tougher than in the past.”
Asked about dollar figures of how much SWAIA might be in the red and how much of a loan it had taken out, Maybee said he couldn’t remember exact amounts and referred the Journal to board treasurer Elizabeth Pettus.
Pettus said she wasn’t sure whether she could give out that information or if it was protected by the confidentiality agreement all board members have to sign.
Maybee acknowledged that SWAIA needs to build better communication with the artists.
Christine McHorse of Santa Fe, an audience member who once participated in Indian Market, asked Maybee what happened to the Council of Artists and many committees that once used to work with SWAIA. “It was a great thing in many ways,” she said, adding, “We were seen as rabble-rousers.”
McHorse continued, “What we need is a board that has vision,” that can look beyond the year-to-year needs and offer continuity into the future.
It might be time to consider reinstituting such involvement, she said of the Council of Artists.
Maybee pointed out that his interim status might limit how many changes he could make, but added that he is interested in hearing people’s ideas.
No plans have been put in place yet to determine how a permanent chief operating officer will be chosen.
“Now our focus is on Indian Market,” said John Paul Rangel, recently hired as SWAIA’s director of marketing and public relations. “After that, it’s going to take time. We will be very thoughtful about finding a new leader.”