When visitors enter the Santa Fe Indian Market online gala, they can choose an avatar dressed in Native American regalia and go shopping in an online 3D universe.
Approximately 450 artists from across the U.S. and Canada will be selling pottery, jewelry, textiles, sculpture and carvings at the first-ever Virtual Indian Market at swaia.org beginning at 7 a.m. Saturday. It runs through Aug. 31.
Organizers turned to the online platform when they were forced to cancel the traditional event because of the pandemic. Just 77 of the 450 artists had developed their own websites when coronavirus hit, Executive Director Kim Peone (Colville Confederated Tribes/Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians) said. Many were skeptical of the idea.
“I think everyone went into COVID with this real sense of ‘What do I do?’ ” Peone said. “When we decided to do a virtual market, I think it sparked something.”
Every artist will have an online presence, she added, and that presence will last for one year.
“Everything is going to be different for swaia.org,” Peone continued. “We’re changing our entire website for this. It will be a completely different look.”
Collectors will be able to look up a specific artist, find their booth and their shopping cart. There will be a $25 fee for marquee events and it includes a 15% discount on Indian Market merchandise. The marquee events will be a fashion show or the silent auction.
Peone plans to carry the online concept through special events slated throughout the year. In September, the market will host a Native American chef event with indigenous chefs from across the globe in partnership with the Santa Fe School of Cooking. October will see a “Hunting and Gathering” market selling metal work and basketry.
If safety and quarantines permit, December will include both a virtual and a live market. Future plans include partnerships with galleries and museums, Peone said.
Indian Market’s umbrella organization, the Southwestern Association for American Indian Arts, contracted with the Clark Hulings Fund and Artspan to produce the ambitious program. By embracing the world of video gaming, organizers hope to attract younger audiences to Indian Market.
This year’s events include:
• Aug. 8: Virtual general preview of artwork submitted for judging. Artists can submit one piece per class.
• Aug. 13: Virtual advanced preview of final round art. A select amount of art will be chosen to be sent to Santa Fe for in-person judging.
• Aug. 15: Virtual awards announcement. Find out live from Santa Fe who the virtual winners are.
• Aug. 16: Virtual fashion show featuring designer Orlando Dugi.
• Aug. 22: Virtual gala and live auction.
• Aug. 29: Finale concert with Snotty Nozed Rez Kids.