The World’s Fair – The 10th Annual International Folk Art Market

Editor | - June 2, 2013

"The largest event of its kind in the world: 190 artists from 60 countries come together to offer handmade masterworks."

This Isn’t a Basket, It’s a Bridge

In a village at the edge of a rainforest, a woman’s skilled and nim­ble fingers blend fabric and straw into graceful baskets. Their size makes them perfect to hold papayas, but they hold so much more. Centuries of craft, tribal identity, the seeds of economic salvation, all worthy of preservation, passion, pride, and promise.

On a windy African plain, the remnants of discarded packaging are folded and bent into objects of desire carried by fashion-forward women thousands of miles away.

This July, the International Folk Art Market will celebrate its 10th anniversary by bringing together more than 190 such artists from every corner of the globe for a vast and colorful international bazaar at the crossroads of our interconnected world. In Santa Fe, itself a destination rich with many layers of culture and history, master artists will offer beautiful art that draws on timeless traditions while market-goers experience the thrill of discovering one-of-a-kind treasures and meeting the artists who made them. And the experience will enable the artists and the shoppers alike a point of connection in an increasingly globalized world—person-to-person exchange is at the heart of the Market.

This Isn’t a Weaving, It’s a Well

The artists from some 60 countries bring basketry, beadwork, carving, ceramics, drums and musical instruments, glass, jewelry, metalwork, mixed media, paintings, sculpture and exquisite textiles, making for an exhilarating shopping experience while affording often undreamed-of opportunities to artisans the world over.

In the past nine years, 650 artists from 80 countries have participated in the Market—generating more than $16 million in sales, 90 percent of which has gone home with the artists. Many come from developing countries where the average income is less than $3 a day. One weekend in Santa Fe provides artists with the financial ability to radically improve their lives and their communities, and past Market artists have gone home to build schools, houses, wells for clean drinking water, and much more. In the words of actor Ali MacGraw, longtime Santa Fe resident and Market supporter, this is “monumental money.” Pakistani artist Surender Valasai puts puts it this way: “We made the quilts for our personal use alone, but now the money will impact the lives of all the artisans and their children. For us it’s a miracle.”

“People want what is real,” says Judith Espinar, co-founder and Creative Director of the Market. “By keeping the vitality and cultural values of their homelands alive through their art amidst a mass-produced world, the Market is the real thing. Each piece of art becomes the starting point for a journey that leads to the artists and stories behind their work. When you touch an object of art, you can’t help being touched by the art­ists themselves.”

From honored tradition-bearers to young creators interpreting ancient art forms, the goods displayed and sold at the Market range from highly affordable to museum-quality masterworks. At the center of a community of artists, the energetic interaction between people who buy folk art and the artisans who make it can start a conversation that continues long after the Market is over. The Market artists represent more than 38,000 artisans and cooperatives, from tiny villages to bustling international metropolises on six continents. A United Nations assembly from around the globe, the artists are here to tell their stories and demonstrate their craft. No English? No problem: everyone has a translator.

For both artists and visitors, the market engenders the empowerment and joy of being a part of a global community. Master artist Aboubakar Sidiki Fofano, from Mali, keeps alive a traditional practice of indigo dyeing that dates back to the 11th century. He has worked for years in Africa, France, Japan, and Great Britain to preserve the ancient techniques he uses for his sublime textiles. Seeing the handwoven and hand-dyed indigo and meeting the artist creates a connectivity that stirs the heart, opens the mind, and invites us to speak a single language.

This Isn’t a Sculpture, It’s a School

Social entrepreneurship is a centerpiece of the Market. “Artisan work is the second-largest income-generating sector in the developing world”, says Shawn McQueen-Ruggeiro, Executive Director of the International Folk Art Market. “We recognize the incredible power that providing a marketplace and training for folk artists can bring. Folk art has become an engine of enterprise, bringing opportunities to indigenous artisans the world over.” The International Folk Art Market fosters economic and cultural sustainability through a broad range of leadership initiatives and partnerships with global thought leaders, including the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise, launched by the Aspen Institute and the U.S. Department of State to create a platform for companies, nonprofits, governments, and international organizations to support and grow artisan enterprises. The Market also offers a hugely successful three-tier training program, Mentor to Market, providing folk artists with valuable business and marketing expertise.

This Isn’t Fabric, It’s Freedom

Premiering as part of the Market’s 10th Anniversary celebrations this summer, The Silkies of Madagascar, a new documentary film, traces the dramatic story of a cooperative producing handwoven silk and cotton textiles. These skilled women’s lives were irrevocably changed when, against all odds, they traveled halfway around the world to Santa Fe to sell their valuable silk textiles at the Market.

To commemorate its 10th Anniversary, the Market will also publish The Work of Art: Why Folk Art Matters, a visually stunning book by Carmella Padilla that explores why the values embodied in folk art—beauty, history, and community—matter in a modern world. Balancing dazzling objects with the moving stories of the people and places at the heart of folk art, the book is a compelling and urgent call to action, inviting readers to participate in creating opportunity, sustainability, and possibility for cultures worldwide.

This Isn’t a Carving, It’s a Cow

At the International Folk Art Market, the array of handmade goods combines with the aromas of international cuisines, and the sounds and rhythms of world music celebrate our global connection. Not only is folk art displayed and sold, it is preserved. Economic seeds are sown, feeding the engines of commerce. Hope grows, bridges are built, wells are dug, and un­derstanding spreads across the world. And that, more than anything, is the work of art.

This Isn’t a Market, It’s a Miracle

Market Logistics: The International Folk Art Market opens on the evening of July 12 and runs through July 14, 2013, at the beautiful Milner Plaza on Santa Fe’s renowned Museum Hill. For ticket sales and more detailed information go to

The International Folk Art Market is a results-oriented entrepreneurial 501(c)(3) organization that provides a venue for master traditional artists to display, demonstrate, and sell their work. By providing opportunities for folk artists to succeed in the global marketplace, the Market creates economic empowerment and improves the quality of life in communities where folk artists live.

UNESCO has been involved with the Market since its inception, particularly through its Award of Excellence programs. The Market is an active member of the Clinton Global Initiative. Other Market partners include the Museum of International Folk Art, the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, and the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs.