Monday, July 13, 2009

Color & Light: Santa Fe International Folk Art Market Opens Clear Window to the World

What do you do on an excruciatingly hot summer’s day if you happen to be in Santa Fe the second week in July? Well,head over to the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market on Museum Hill, of course!

A direct off-shoot of a smaller festival that took place in 2003, the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market was conceived in the earlier part of the decade by a handful of folk art collectors, dealers, Santa Fe arts leaders as well as the Director of the Museum of International Folk Art. The first Santa Fe International Folk Art Market was held in 2004 to much success, and has become the United States’ “largest venue for authentic, quality international folk art and a major international force in the cultural and economic sustainability of folk artists.”

Once you walk through the elaborately decorated gate, it's not difficult to see why. When you feature well over a hundred juried artists from all over the world (over 40 countries and 6 Continents were represented in 2008), display their colorful wares on the plaza at Museum Hill, amidst some of the country’s top cultural institutions—the Museum of International Folk Art, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian—It’s truly a recipe for fun and excitement for people of all ages. Admission to the Festival will also get you into the museums for free over the weekend.

Even if your personal decorating style doesn’t include folk art, one can definitely appreciate the skill and level of craftsmanship in every piece of art that you will see at the Festival. One of the nicest aspects of the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market is that it is not like a gallery experience. Every piece of art is at your fingertips to handle, feel, and discover its unique energy. Who knows, the art might just start speaking to you and ask you to bring it home with you! And when you bring something home, the artist get to take back home 93% of the proceeds to his or her village, where they can put that money to good use.

This was my first year experiencing what the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market has to offer. I had a blast (in spite of the 2-mile walk from my car and a minor sunburn) checking out all the booths, sampling all the world tastes at the outdoor food court, meeting the artisans, as well as making friends with other spectators.

Highlights of the Festival included Indonesian shadow puppets, colorful wire and bead horses, penguins and people by Barbara Jackson, Shirley Fintz and Mathapelo Ngaka of Monkeybiz South Africa, the wooden block prints by Brazil’s own folk art legend Jose Francisco Borges. They were selling 6” x 8” original block prints for only $12—That’s a bargain!

Perhaps my most favorite of all the handicrafts available for purchase at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market were the hand-woven baskets by the women of the Wounaan People of Panama. They dye natural fibers that they find in the forest and weave them into their magnificent creations, which reflect their everyday life, their distinct culture, traditions, in addition to the insects, animals and plants found in the region.

If you didn't get to Santa Fe this year, put it on your must-do list for 2010. For more information visit

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