The largest international folk art festival in the world, in 2012 150 artists from 54 countries participated and over 20,000 people attended the Market.
The Market showcases master craftsmanship passed down through families, generations, and cultures: colorful beaded jewelry from Kenya; gorgeous silk scarves from Kyrgyzstan; exquisite ceramics from France.
Many of the artists come from developing countries, where the average income is less than $3 a day and where political, social, and environmental hardships can make everyday life-not to mention the creation of art-challenging. In the past nine years, artists at the Market have earned more than $14 million dollars. In 2011, 90 percent of the Market’s $2.3 million in sales went directly to the artists, or an average of $17,300 per booth.
The proceeds earned at previous Markets have helped to build schools, wells, and health clinics in a number of Third World countries. They have, for example, brought food, clothing, and medical care to Sudanese refugee camps, AIDS support to South Africa, and financial independence for Afghan women.
That’s a powerful bottom line: One weekend in Santa Fe provides artists the financial ability to radically improve their lives and their communities. Actor Ali MacGraw-a longtime Santa Fe resident and supporter of the arts-calls it “monumental money.”
One young Afghan weaver who sells intricately hand embroidered scarves and shawls is now able to afford to send her sisters to school. A 38-year old grandmother from a remote village in Madagascar was able to provide basic electricity and water to her village. A Rwandan basket weaver supplied women with a home garden and mosquito nets; and Maasai beaders from Kenya were able to buy chickens to feed villagers during a terrible drought. A Niger silversmith made enough money at last year’s market to buy three months’ worth of food for over 500 people in nearby villages. The money a Haitian artist earned from her dream-inspired sequin flags helped support her extended family that was left homeless after the devastating earthquake of 2010.
More than 97 percent of participating Market artists come from developing countries, where per capita annual incomes range from $250 to $1,500. “Many of these artists grapple daily with political, social, and environmental challenges in their home countries,” points out Judith Espinar, Creative Director and Co-Founder of the Market. “Yes, the Market makes a real difference in their lives, and at the same time they touch our lives in so many important ways.”
It is this sharing, the cultural interchange, that makes the Market such a unique event. The benefits of the Market flow both to the artists and to visitors, who not only discover wonderful (and often very affordable) artwork at the Market but also remarkable stories. Browsing at the Market often leads to encounters with the artists and a clearer understanding of world conditions.
In addition, visitors can enjoy exotic food as well as live, free world music on several stages, ranging from Latin rock to Japanese Shigin chanting. The Market represents, in other words, a readily affordable weekend of global experiences and connections, an overseas trip without the overseas plane fare.
The Market is held at Milner Plaza, next to the world-famous Museum of International Folk Art. Please see the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market website for the 2014 Market’s ticket prices and details. It will be held from July 11-13, 2014.
This article is a compliation of past press releases from the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market.