Monday, August 12, 2013

SWAIA Indian Market: Adding to Your Collection...One Friend at a Time

Hoop Dancer Tony Duncan at SWAIA Indian Market
Photo: Paul Niemi (2011)
When some of us were kids (long before Facebook), our best friends or classmates would move away to new cities.  It was always a sad event.  While they left behind their phone numbers so you could call on a birthday to "catch up," you knew that once a few months had passed, you would make new friends and move on. Besides, those long-distance calls weren't really in the family budget! It was always a possibility that you would never see your friends again, and that was a reality we all accepted.  High school and college beckoned us, and people came in and out of our lives.  Then, all of a sudden, we were in the adult world. People became busier, and it seemed harder to make those amazing close relationships you used to have.  Social media has now revolutionized how we stay in touch, how we communicate and how we connect, but it's not the same as real face-to-face communication with open-hearted people who treat you with the respect of a bygone era. 

Speaking of social media, SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market has done a tremendous job at connecting the world with Native American art, film, music, fashion and culture through social media.  While I love to stay connected via the Internet with many people, for me, one of the best things about Market is so basic, so natural, and so wonderful--The friendships that are made and endure year after year at Indian Market.  Unlike the days when childhood classmates once moved away never to be heard from again, Santa Fe Indian Market Week is always the time when people come "home."  You always know they'll be there each August. It's a crossroads of sorts on Santa Fe's Historic Plaza, where hospitality reigns, inevitable hugs happen, old friendships grow stronger and new ones are kindled.

That's why SWAIA Indian Market is a unique family. The art has changed, some faces have come, gone and been replaced by eager new ones, but old fashioned values still play out amongst the white booths dotting Santa Fe's downtown corridor.  And for the spectator, when you're there, you're treated like part of the family. You're welcomed with the intent that you will look,  really see and learn about Native culture (There's so much to learn!). Who knows?  You may want to buy! That  purchase of an artist's work might just lead to more purchases, year after year, and result in lifelong friendships.
Sgraffito and Stone-polished Handcoiled
Jemez Pueblo Pot by Alfreda Fragua
Photo: Alfreda Fragua

Being an advocate for Native American art is my passion, and I LOVE introducing contemporary Native American art to those who may know nothing about it. It's even better when I can change someone's perception of what Native American art is.  The landscape (pardon the pun!) is vast when it comes to the kinds of pieces you'll see at Santa Fe Indian Market.  The truth is, just like Native arts and crafts have changed over history due to contact with new peoples and new materials, so is contemporary Native American art evolving all the time. Formal art education inspires some artists to take Native art where it's never gone before.  Artists also experiment with forms and mediums each year to test their artistic mettle.  Submissions for Indian Market award judging get bigger and bolder every year, and it's exciting to see.

So if you're attending SWAIA Indian Market Week for the first time, what do you need to know?

1)  Always feel free to ask questions.  While many collectors typically "want a piece" of an artist at his or her booth, they are there to talk about their work, their culture and, most importantly, to sell.

2) Most artists understand that touching and feeling impacts someone's intent to buy.  Most will let you handle smaller items, but be sure to ask permission first.  Many people will invite you to do so from the get-go, but awaiting or asking permission shows respect.  The same is true if you want to snap a photograph.

3) Buy what you like!  You have to live with it, so make sure you love it.  There are original works of art by more than 1,100 top Native American artists from the United States and Canada available for purchase. Prices range from about $10 on up.

4) If something is out of your budget, don't worry.  Many artists are generational, so you'll likely be able to find pieces by other "lesser-known" artists for a fraction of the price of works by more famous artists.  Buying pieces by young children is a great way to start a collection and become familiar with work by all family members.

5) Come to SWAIA Indian Market Week with an open mind and open heart.  Indian Market is a great learning opportunity for both children and adults.  These artists live all around us in a contemporary world, and Market is a wonderful place to discover our commonalities.  Of course, come hungry because you're also going to want to eat Indian tacos and fry bread that vendors will be selling on the Plaza!

This Friday, August 16, I'll be on KASA Fox 2's "New Mexico Style" talking about collecting memories at Indian Market.   Check out my last year's appearance on buying affordable art at Indian Market HERE:

Happy Indian Market Week!

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