International Folk Art Market | Santa Fe
Imagine a place where cultures from all corners of the globe are celebrated; where folk artists, often marginalized in their own communities, are elevated. Where the humanity of the handmade isn’t just discussed, but is right in front of you as you move from stall to stall at a bustling outdoor event, taking in the shades, symbols, and smiles of nearly 60 countries gathered in one place.
Every July this experience is made real when the International Folk Art Market | Santa Fe—a mecca for master folk artists and catalyst for social change across continents–un- furls its magic.
Half of the world’s population lives on less than $2 per day and indigenous cultures are rapidly disappearing at a rate of 30 per year. In the process, traditional lifestyles are being threatened by larger global economic forces that all too of- ten split communities apart, devalue hand-crafted tradition, and interrupt knowledge traditionally handed down from generation to generation.
The artisan sector represents the second largest industry in the developing world, and therefore holds potential for large scale positive social change. As a result, folk artists across the globe need markets to sustain their livelihoods, preserve their cultures, and support their families. IFAM | Santa Fe addresses the challenge of an interconnect ed world by providing an innovative approach to increasing global and cultural understanding through its partnerships and related educational programming.
“It’s like few other places in the world because it’s the world gathered all in one place,” CBS Sunday Morning noted after visiting. And while this extraordinary gathering can’t be fully expressed in statistics, the numbers tell a compelling story. Annually, over 2,100 dedicated volunteers help create the event, giving over 40,000 hours of work toward everything from stuffing envelopes to high level event coordination.
More than 150 artists participate, trekking to the United States from 60 different countries after applying for visas and making international shipping and travel arrangements. These artists represent another 25,690 members of cooperatives and groups that ultimately impact the lives of 256,900 more family and community members.
Then, in only 21 hours–from a Friday to Sunday evening–20,000 visitors attend the event, purchasing $3 million in folk art. Artists retain 90% of these sales, averaging nearly $20,000 in new income per booth. More often than not, the income helps sustain entire communities. When artists return home, wells, bridges, and even schools are built. From revered culture-bearers to young artists re-imaging ancient forms, the artists at the Market, their stories of hope, and the celebration of what makes us uniquely human, make for a transformative experience that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.