Why the International Folk Art Market Matters to So Many People

It’s way more than an amazing place to shop. . .read more.

Santa Fe’s International Folk Art Market comes to  Museum Hill this July 10th-12th, and the crowd is more than welcome. The Market brings in some 20,000 visitors, who since 2004 have spent over 34 million dollars on goods made by over 1,000 artists from more than 100 countries. Is Folk Art Market an exceptional opportunity for shopping? You bet! But even better, great things happen when Santa Feans get together with talented craftspeople and artists from all over the world. Let’s borrow from the International Folk Art Alliance’s mission statement and see how it’s carried out in one magical weekend.

Sita Devi Karna of the Janakpur Women's Development Center (JWDC), Nepal, at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market. Photo © Bob Smith.


  • The IFAA mission includes such inspiring goals as creating “economic opportunities for and with folk artists worldwide.” This means money is going directly into the pockets of the artists themselves, with a total impact on over one million individuals each year. Here’s how that panned out for Lila Handicrafts, a cooperative of women from a small village in Pakistan. The quilts they sell at Market have enabled these women not only to send their children to school, but to build a school in their own community, the Santa Fe Desert School.
  • Also from the mission statement, one of the greatest effects of “creative practitioners who leverage their handmade works” is “positive social change in their communities.” This means that the beaded collar you buy from Flor Maria Cartuche, a Saraguro Native from southern Ecuador, helped her community support a shelter for victims of domestic violence.  Compare the numbers: Her beadwork collective earned $26,000 in one weekend, while the average daily income per individual in Ecuador is $12.40. The shelter probably would have closed if Flor María and her fellows could not have sold their handiwork at the Folk Art Market.
  • Then there’s this dream, and as artists and contributing members of the arts community we cannot help but read it and cheer: “Our vision is a world that values the humanity of the handmade, honors timeless cultural traditions, and embraces the vision of dignified livelihoods for [all] artists.”
  • Ok, I admit I added the “all” to that statement, but isn’t that what the pursuit of art is all about? It may not be directly quantifiable, but then again, $3 million is a number worth noting, and nothing to sneeze at—not for New Mexicans in one of the nation’s poorest states, nor for any of the individuals from all corners of the globe who depend upon the International Folk Art Market to support themselves and their families and loved ones.


Elhadji Mohamed (aka Elhadji Koumama), Tuareg jeweler from Niger at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market's kick-off event at The Railyard. Photo © Lisa Law.

So go ahead and buy that gorgeous textile or stunning piece of jewelry: You just might be feeding a village.

For details, visit the International Folk Art Alliance at www.folkartalliance.org. See this link for calendar details.

Kongthong Nanthavongdouangsy, a weaver from Lao PDR at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market. Photo © Michael Benanav


Aboubakar Fofana at the International Folk Art Market - Santa Fe. His masterfully designed and rendered indigo-dyed organic cotton textiles are a favorite at the Market. Photo © Bob Smith


Samburu women dancing in the community of Umoja in Kenya. Rebecca Lolosoli represents the Umoja Uaso Women's Group at the International Folk Art Market - Santa Fe, selling the Samburu beadwork seen here made by the women in the community. Photo © Stephanie Mendez


South African basketweaver, Angeline Bonsisiwe Masuku. Photo © Judith Cooper Haden.