May 5, 2015, Santa Fe, New Mexico—As part of its ongoing mission to promote the global artist economy through education and sustainable business development, the International Folk Art Alliance is continuing to grow its Mentor to Market programs, providing master folk artists with opportunities to develop their businesses and navigate the global marketplace while preserving their artistic and cultural traditions.
With the IFAA’s International Folk Art Market | Santa Fe now in its twelfth year and the Mentor to Market program in its tenth year, one thing is clear: To nourish the unparalleled talent of folks artists around the world, these artists—many of whom live in developing countries where the average person gets by on less than $3 a day—need more markets, more capacity building, and more opportunities to participate in the formal economy. For this reason, the Mentor to Market (M2M) programs provide artists with critical tools and training as well as ways to connect with the rest of the world.
“Craft is the second-largest income generator in the developing world, but the barriers faced are many,” says Jeff Snell, IFAA’s CEO. “We’re deeply committed to helping them meet those challenges in a number of ways. If we can offer programs that teach how to better navigate the demands of selling work in the global marketplace, they become vibrant cultural entrepreneurs who can leverage their art to create economic and social value both for themselves and for their entire communities.”
Through varied curricula including an online learning lab, a partnership with the Dallas Market Center, and an extensive mentorship program, M2M provides master folk artists with the opportunity to build upon their business through export guidance, sales tips, and classes on pricing, merchandising, and much more. The mentors who participate include prominent industry professionals, and the M2M programs have received financial support from BNY Mellon, UNESCO, the Kellogg Foundation, EILEEN FISHER, and others. Over the years, more than 900 artists from more than 40 countries have received invaluable training. Through the M2M programs, as well as participation in the Market itself, artists develop the skills to improve their businesses, build assets, and gain economic security for themselves, their families, and their communities. They also acquire the confidence to be successful in the global marketplace. They become their own powerful agents of change.
Elhadji Koumama, a master Tuareg jeweler from Niger who employs over 35 silversmiths, explains it this way: “The support you have offered me in the past and present has made it possible for the artisans and their families to prosper. Our whole community has thrived. We are able to make a fair living while producing our cultural craft. The kids all now go to school. The quality of our jewelry has improved also, because of the support of everyone associated with my journey. Thank you for the happiness I see around my workshop, and the pride we feel as a community.”
Working on four tracks, M2M supports artists in a variety of ways:
- Preparing for Your First Market: Because the Santa Fe Market is often their first global marketplace experience, artists in the Preparing for Your First Market program are provided with training on costing and pricing, booth display, customer service, marketing and merchandising, and how to tell your story to your potential buyers. This program takes place in Santa Fe in the two days leading up to the Market.
- Intermediate-Level Training: For the first time this year, M2M will be offering a new intermediate-level training program for 20 returning artists who are not yet wholesale-oriented but are committed to increasing their business skills as well as their opportunities in the global marketplace. Among the topics covered will be strategies for identifying and evaluating new market opportunities, and determining the financial investment required for each of those opportunities.
- Preparing for the Export Marketplace: This is an advanced course for alumni artists who want to engage in the wholesale marketplace. Training includes selecting an export collection, customer relations, order fulfillment, quality control, and marketing and development of promotional materials. Prior to this summer’s Market in Santa Fe, these artists will participate in the International Folk Art Market Collection in the Dallas Total Home & Gift Market, June 24–30. This will be the fifth year that artists from the training program will be in Dallas. One of the largest wholesale markets in the country, the Dallas Market will provide some artists with their first direct encounter with the wholesale ordering process. More important, the artists are given a crucial opportunity to meet potential wholesale buyers and form long-term, year-round relationships.
- IFAM | Online Learning Lab: This program launched last September, with the purpose of providing artists with an online training program designed to help navigate the complicated world of e-commerce. With individual support from trainers, the artists then use the program’s online store to display and sell their one-of-a-kind products year-round through the IFAA website.
The program initially involved 18 artists and cooperatives from 16 countries, representing a total of 4,200 artists. Of these, 90 percent were women, and their earnings impacted an estimated 42,000 community members. IFAA plans to grow this program to include the work of up to 40 artisans and cooperatives, and will continue to help artists broaden their customer base and strengthen their capacity to expand their business.
Generous support for the Mentor to Market Program provided by BNY Mellon and EILEEN FISHER.
The International Folk Art Alliance, a tax-exempt, 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, works in partnership with the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, the Museum of International Folk Art, the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, and the City of Santa Fe. Partially funded by the City of Santa Fe Arts Commission and the 1% Lodgers’ Tax and the County of Santa Fe Lodgers’ Tax. IFAA is an active member of the Clinton Global Initiative and a founding member of the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise, founded by the U.S. Department of State and the Aspen Institute.
For more information, interview requests, and photos, please contact Clare Hertel at 505-474-6783 or firstname.lastname@example.org.