Visitors Flock to the 12th Annual International Folk Art Market | Santa Fe

SANTA FE, NM July 16, 2015 — Nearly 19,000 visitors joined in the festive, green-festooned pageantry of the 12th annual International Folk Art Market | Santa Fe with green of their own, spending nearly $3 million during the three-day event from July 10-12 on Museum Hill in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Economic opportunity and the social good that empowers folk artists around the globe were the big winners at this year’s event, which brought together 173 master artists and cooperatives from 57 countries from India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Colombia, South Africa, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, and beyond. Most of them—from countries where the average annual income is less than $10 a day—traveled across continents and oceans, often for the first time, to share and sell their work at the largest market of its kind in the world.

A first-time Market exhibitor, Meghuben Rabari of India, represented hand-embroidered apparel and wall hangings made by a collective of 1,200 women, Qasab-Kutch Craftswomen, from the states of Gujarat and Kutch. According to her translator, Punit Soni, “Communication and livelihood options are not that great for the 11 ethnic communities and 62 villages in the most interior parts of Kutch.” Soni added that the Market also helps the group to revive appreciation for a 400-year-old craft that has otherwise been “lost in the histories. The respect for the craft is the most incredible thing.”

Also debuting at the Market this year were master cotton weavers of the Karen tribe in northern Thailand. As volunteer Market Regional Coordinator Deborah Weinberg explained, “These 57 women live in small villages. Being able to sell their work through the Market means they don’t have to leave their villages to work in factories in Bangkok. They’ll be able to stay with their families and support them.”

This theme was echoed by Lulama Sihlabeni of Capetown, South Africa’s eKhaya eKasi Art and Education Centre, whose 30 members sculpt animals out of glass beads just as their great-grandmothers did, and will spend their Market proceeds on education and nutrition. “For all these women, the Market means that they can take their children to school and feed their families,” she said.

International Folk Art Alliance board member Peggy Gaustad, taking a breather from the constant activity over the weekend in booths 107 and 108, home to naive paintings, drawings and woodblock prints from Cuba, put it this way: “This is the best. This is the fifth year we’ve had Cuban art here and I’m almost in tears because I know how hard they work, and to see them have so much success is amazing.”

Cuban painter Cenia Gutiérrez Alfonso was representing four painters of the arte naif school in her community of Cienfuego. She said that the roosters in her paintings, or “los gallos” in Spanish, represent “Cuban-ía,” or qualities of strength, love, power, and fearlessness.

In the days leading up to the Market, close to one hundred of the artists went through business education and mentorship programs designed to help them learn the details of everything from pricing to marketing. Called Mentor to Market, this program, now in its 10th year, is sponsored in part by BNY Mellon and EILEEN FISHER, Inc., and draws on the expertise of a number of volunteer business leaders and folk art experts.

Janet Nkubana of Gahaya Links in Rwanda explained that this business experience has helped expand and build relationships for her cooperative of close to 5,000 Hutu and Tutsi women who, following the Rwandan genocide, found reconciliation through weaving “peace baskets,” gorgeous sisal baskets colored with vegetable dyes. She is also a big believer in the kind of artist-to-artist sharing that goes on both at the Market itself and in the months following it: “We have made great friends from all over the world. We have shared knowledge about how we do our natural dyes, and we have also extended information regarding sources of material. Coming here is very resourceful — not only in earning money, but from your fellow artisans in the Market.”

On Saturday, the International Folk Art Alliance (IFAA), home of the International Folk Art Market | Santa Fe, presented EILEEN FISHER, Inc. and Macy’s with Global Artisan Leadership Awards for Corporate Social Responsibility. As Jeff Snell, CEO of IFAA said, “We want to honor two corporate partners that exemplify leadership in supporting the artisan sector. They have made a significant difference in the lives of the world’s master folk artists, equipping and empowering them to positively impact their communities.”

Snell went on to talk about the Market’s impact. “Folk art can be a powerful catalyst for positive social change,” he noted “and in 21 hours at the Market an artist can earn up to 10 times what they might make in an entire year at home. This economic gain turns into social value. They take home the pride of knowing their work has clear economic value in the world and that they can generate amazing social impact in their communities and lives of those around them.”

Hosting the Market, of course, is the work of countless people behind the scenes: the IFAA staff, the world renown experts who choose the master artists and contribute their expertise to the Mentor to Market program and the countless generous donors. Not least are the 1,815 volunteers who assisted over the Market weekend, including a team of students from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design that helped create the ambiance of the Market based on the color green and the Tree of Life theme.

Other IFAA programs that have contributed to a banner sales year for IFAA artists were International Folk Art Market | Collection, a wholesale training program and market done in partnership with the Dallas Total Home & Gift Market, and an online store called International Folk Market | Online.  Together they generated another $280,000 in sales for master international artists.

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.

For more information, interview requests, and photos, please contact Clare Hertel at 505-474-6783 or