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July 08, 2014

Folk Art Takes Over Santa Fe

By Ingrid Skjong | Arts + Culture

Folk Art Takes Over Santa Fe
© Jim Arndt

The only one of its kind in the world, the International Folk Art Market—held on storied Museum Hill in Santa Fe (July 11–13), surrounded by views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains—is a riot of color, craft and, perhaps most importantly, opportunity. This year upwards of 150 artists from 60 countries will converge on the art-centric Southwestern city, drawing in nearly 25,000 visitors to peruse carvings, ceramics, glasswork, jewelry, sculpture, textiles, basketry and more.

“I always find something new that I have never heard of,” says Keith Recker, a member of the market’s board of directors. “Last year it was cotton ikats from East Timor that knocked me flat. The year before it was the entrancing indigo fabrics of Malian designer Aboubakar Fofana.”

This year look out for the largest group (13) of Haitian artists ever to assemble to display work in the United States, sharing pieces that incorporate elements of voodoo, politics, family life, social challenges and the island’s natural beauty. But the expertly juried show goes beyond showcasing items. During the past decade (this month marks its 11th anniversary), 90 percent of its $19 million in sales has gone to its artists, who often contribute to their home communities by building structures like schools, houses, health clinics and clean-water wells.

While an appearance at the market can earn a participant a year’s living or more, and it works with entities like the Clinton Global Initiative, UNESCO and the Aspen Institute to further its mission, the core of the event centers on the stories of its artists—reminders of just how rich the genre really is.

“Every piece of folk art I’ve ever seen carries the touch of its makers,” says Recker. “There’s an intimacy in each piece, an embedded narrative of tradition and time, of talent and determination.” 505-992-7600; folkartalliance.org.