June 9, 2014

Putting Artists in the Center: The Indigenous Fine Art Market

Santa Fe has long been an arts mecca. It is an inspiring place - the environment itself is stunning, but the people there are also interesting, creative, and open-minded. It's no surprise then that Santa Fe lays claim to the biggest gathering of Native American artists: every August, thousands of Native artists come together to participate either directly in the annual Santa Fe Indian Market (headed up by the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts) or indirectly, participating in the numerous periphery events happening on the fringes.

But why are there so many events happening on the edge of Market? These events highlight two key trends: 1) some of these artists produce work that, even though it is high-quality and meaningful, doesn't fit into SWAIA's categories or regulations, and 2) some of these artists just don't want to participate in SWAIA's booth-ridden "Market". SWAIA isn't adapting quickly enough to fulfill the critical needs of 'Indian Arts' as it claims to do. One major problem has to do with its simultaneous claim to be the biggest Indian art market, and its continued emphasis on Southwest arts - Indian art extends beyond the Southwest, and these artists are being excluded from this major event. This is why a new art market called the Indigenous Fine Arts Market (IFAM) was created.

“IFAM aims to create a greater understanding of the diversity and beauty of Native culture and people as we exist today.”

Kristen Dorsey explained, "As a Chickasaw jewelry artist, I am especially excited for this new market. Due to historical events, the southwest is still positioned as the center and destination for the Native art market. Southwestern Native art shows and galleries attract a vast number of outstanding artists from southwestern tribes, however there is a huge lack of representation from other regions. There are over 565 Native American Nations, yet artists from only a handful of these nations are consistently represented in the Native art market. This is why IFAM took a revolutionary step to invite Canadian First Nations and Indigenous Hawaiians to participate." But IFAM is about more than just meeting the needs of artists, it's about the broad issue of representation.

“Indigenous Fine Art Market is about sharing our Native narrative with the world through the connections and relationships we make with those who experience our art." 

As a Native American, fighting mis-representations and stereotypes seems to be a daily occurrence. We can all agree that this is due in part to a severe lack of authentic Native representation within mainstream culture. This is why Native artists are so critical to their communities today. As artists, we teach about our unique histories and cultures through our art. Through our work, we have the ability to reach an enormous amount of people and connect with them on a deep level. We teach that we are individuals not stereotypes.

"IFAM’s events and youth, music and literary programs, will create a greater understanding of the complexity and beauty of Native American culture and people as we evolve and exist today.”

With the mission that IFAM has in mind, the new organization seeks funding to help execute an exciting new trend - and we need your help. You can click here to contribute to this campaign to allow every excellent artist a place to display their work, or click here to access the IFAM Website. I will be donating at the $50 level so I can get one of those cool bandanas by Ehren Kee Natay, but the arrowhead by IFAM president John Torres Nez also has a hold on me (below). So I'll probably do both! You can also purchase the IFAM benefit tee at this link.

If you can't contribute, please help out by sharing this post or by sharing the IFAM Kickstarter link with your networks - IFAM is about community foremost. We all know an artist, and imagine the impact that we can have on our world if we support these inspiring creative individuals. Funding raised from the IFAM kickstarter campaign will enhance the inaugural art market by allowing for additional events, such as traditional and contemporary music, dance and spoken word stages, skateboarding exhibitions, installation art, mural painting, youth art, and literary booths. The inaugural market will take place on August 21-23 at the Railyard Arts District in Santa Fe, NM. IFAM is a juried art show and will include only the highest quality artwork.

You can also click here, here, or here to read more about IFAM in the media.