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Folk art an instrument of peace

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Judith Espinar, the founder of the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, served in the Peace Corps in Peru after college; it’s where her passion for folk art took root.

“The idea for the International Folk Art Market grew out of a concern for folk artists and a desire to show them that their work is valued,” Espinar said.

Promoting peace and friendship around the world and bringing them back home is the guiding philosophy of the Peace Corps, which this year is commemorating its 50th anniversary.

If you go
WHAT: Santa Fe International Folk Art Market
WHEN: Thursday, July 7, through July 10. 6:15-9 p.m. Thursday, free community celebration; 6:30-9 p.m. Friday, market opening party; 7:30-9 a.m. Saturday, early-bird market; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and June 10, regular market (Sunday is family day)
WHERE: Museum Hill, Camino Lejos in Santa Fe
HOW MUCH: Tickets to market opening party $125, $50 for early-bird market Saturday includes all day, regular market Saturday $15 advance and $20 at the gate, family day ticket on Sunday is $5 in advance and $10 at the gate. Youths 16 and under free Saturday and Sunday

The Peace Corps mantra is nowhere more evident than in Santa Fe each July at the Folk Art Market, Espinar said. The biggest event of its kind in the world, the market brings together more than 150 artists from 49 countries aided by the efforts of a battalion of more than 1,600 volunteers, many of them returned Peace Corps volunteers.

It’s fitting that one of the biggest commemorations for the Peace Corps will take place in Santa Fe, since the City Different ranks 10th in the country of cities with the highest number per capita of Peace Corps recruits.

A combination birthday party and a kick-off party for the 2011 market will take place at 6:15 p.m. Thursday, July 7, at Santa Fe’s Railyard Park. It also will mark the opening of the Peace Corps Anniversary Around the World Expo.

The event will include international food carts, global music and dance performances, including a folk group of dancers and musicians from Oman, Espinar said.

At the center of the festivities will be the Annual Market Artist Procession, beginning at 6:40 p.m., during which 150 market artists, all in colorful national dress, will be welcomed, Espinar added.

National Peace Corps Association President Kevin Quigley will give the keynote address, and the world-renowned West African Highlife Band will play into the evening. The event is free and open to the public.

A market opening party will take place the evening of Friday, July 8, with shopping, dancing, food and drink and international music.

“Nowhere else will the spirit of voluntarism be more alive than in this city on this weekend,” Espinar said.

“It seemed a natural fit because of what the Peace Corps does to further world peace, combined with what we do at the market to further understanding from culture to culture.”

After graduating from Cornell in the early 1960s, Espinar had already been to Mexico and had seen beautiful examples of pottery and textiles.

“I started to recognize that the world had all of these wonderful cultural arts, and that the cultural folk art is the voice of that culture,” she said. “These were arts that were being passed from generation to generation, reflecting the values that were important to the people.”

After a successful career in the fashion industry in New York, Espinar moved to Santa Fe, where she opened a store specializing in traditional global ceramics.

“It was then that I saw how much these artisans needed other markets and how much they depended on tourism,” she said.

“I began to share with all of my buyers that they were not only buying a beautiful piece of art, but they were also buying a piece of history.”

Since there were already two high-quality cultural events in Santa Fe – Spanish Market and the Santa Fe Indian Market – organizers decided to establish an international folk art market.

Looking at the market as a way of preserving history while at the same time perpetuating culture created “an excitement about that work that had never existed before,” Espinar said.

Meanwhile, Natalie Mundy, a Peace Corps volunteer, said she works with artist Marie Virgini Ramanaliniaina, a Madagascar weaver in silk and cotton textiles.

“In the central highlands of Madagascar, a girl’s life as an artisan begins at birth when she receives the tools with which she will someday learn to weave,” Mundy said. “Women still raise all of the silk and cotton themselves, use natural dyes from native plants, and weave the fabric on eucalyptus looms. Now, however, their artistry has become a way for them to make a living.”

Mundy, who lives in a small weaving community in Madagascar called Sandrandahy, said she will attend the market with Ramanaliniaina, a weaver who’s had a longtime dream of bringing her art to America.