The Santa Fe International Folk Art Market has been a key event on Mohamed El Maouloud Ag Hamid’s calendar for six years.
Of particular importance is the 2021 market, which kicked off Thursday, he said.
As the coronavirus pandemic spread across the world last year, organizers of the Folk Art Market – and other major cultural events in the city – were forced to cancel in the summer. 2020. Hamid and members of his collective of 150 artists based in Mali, Association Timidwa, have been deprived of one of their greatest financial opportunities. Now, as the pandemic continues to subside and New Mexico is completely reopened for business, the Malian collective and other folk artist groups from around the world were eager to come together on Museum Hill.
“Art is very important for our survival,” said Hamid. “The market is very useful. It’s useful for artists, it’s useful for the community, especially in West Africa, where we come from.
The 17th annual International Folk Art Market brought together more than 120 artists from 50 countries at Milner Plaza on Museum Hill – with some major differences caused by the lingering coronavirus pandemic.
This year the market will be held for several days over a two week period rather than a busy weekend. The first week opened to the public on Thursday, while the second week runs July 14-18.
The number of participants has also been reduced. Instead of a sea of people flooding Museum Hill for a typical weekend market, guests are to enter in groups of 200 at two-hour intervals to help reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19.
A typical market attracts nearly 20,000 visitors in two days. Organizers expect the current market to attract about half of that number.
Organizers also decided to forgo an opening parade and put in place a battery of state health ministry COVID-19 protocols, including mandatory mask wear, social distancing, and shopping without numerary.
Juan Gonzalez, representing Colombia-based woven jute rug manufacturer Marlen Pacheco, said that while the market is not as grand as it once was, the Light Festival is the first market the brand has participated in for over a year.
“For us it’s very important,” said Gonzalez. “It means a lot. It used to mean a lot, but it means more to us because of the conditions.
Puja Bhargava Kamath runs Indian jewelry brand Lai, which features the work of a handful of traditional Indian artists. The company was to participate in the market for the first time last year.
The cancellation was a big blow to Lai and the company’s partner families.
Kamath said the festival represents an opportunity for some of the local artists to set up their businesses and come up with styles and designs that best suit Western audiences.
The tax impact for some families is huge, she added.
Melissa Mann, the festival’s director of external affairs, said that while the event may be smaller than in the past, organizers are happy to bring the event back to Santa Fe.
Last year, artists’ products were auctioned off in a virtual auction and holiday market.
“Because of COVID, we have a lot of additional responsibilities,” Mann said. “We’ve tried to take a very conservative approach, which is why you see the smaller footprint – controlled entry. After a year and a half for artists of not having an outlet, no tourism in their country, we felt really responsible for making things happen.
Some of the artists in the market earn 80-90% of their annual income during the event, she said. The 2019 event saw revenue of $ 3.1 million.
“When you think of the communities where some of the artists come from,” Mann said, “it pays the tuition, it’s the washer and dryer they thought they never had or just household appliances. These are cooperatives which then distribute the wealth over a group of 100 or 200 people, especially women. … It’s big. “
Organizers were concerned about what their volunteers could handle – 800 this year, compared to about 2,200 in a typical year – as well as whether artists would be able to participate.
She said she heard from artists who could not afford to buy materials to create their art during the pandemic.
“We have artists who are difficult to get to an airport,” Mann said. “They’ve had typhoons, earthquakes, insurgencies. The story that really comes to mind is the resilience of artists. “
The Folk Art Market reduced the artists’ booth fees from $ 600 to $ 300, and it covered airline tickets and hotel costs for 30 of them. Participating artists also received free meals.
Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center will provide COVID-19 vaccines to approximately 100 artists on Monday and July 19.
Mann said a handful of artists tested positive for COVID-19 before arriving, while others are still getting tested.
Volunteers and the market support network rallied around artists who couldn’t attend to make sure someone was at their booth, selling their work, she said.
“These are people who take a week to 20 days to make sure these artists gain that economic value,” Mann said.
“So when these artists couldn’t walk through the door, the community came together to make sure someone was selling their art. It’s really cool.”