Three days before the Indigenous Fine Art Market was set to open for its third year, organizers faced a tough choice. It was Tuesday, and a last-minute discovery in permitting paperwork would require them to either increase their insurance costs to operate for their planned three days beginning on Thursday, or to cut Saturday, Aug. 20 from the schedule. The latter won out.
Did "the city" intentionally thwart the small art event planned over Indian Market weekend in the Santa Fe Railyard, or did organizers drop the ball?
Social media has been aflutter with artists who planned to exhibit at IFAM on Saturday, and accusations are flying about the events that led to the change.
IFAM media representative Douglas Miles told the Santa Fe New Mexican he had heard artists complain that the city was "trying to squeeze more money out of Indians." In an interview with SFR, however, Miles says that he "didn't know what to think" of the situation.
"I don't feel a conspiratory vibe. But I think it's possible that there are people who don't want IFAM to happen," Miles tells SFR. "A lot of the inner-workings and the inner-minutiae I'm not privy to. To me it seems like a discriminatory move. … I just think that since this occurred, some of the artists started to feel like the city didn't want them there." Miles estimates the vendors were officially notified of the Saturday cancellation on Thursday, Aug. 18.
The Railyard is a city property that's managed on contract by a nonprofit called Santa Fe Railyard Community Corporation. Its director of events and marketing, Sandra Brice, tells SFR that confusion has been a pattern from IFAM. "It's very disappointing," she says, for the organization "to send out a spokesman who implied that we, on behalf of the city, would try to shut them down. It would be laughable if it wasn't so untrue as well as so disrespectful to our efforts and those of a lot of hardworking staffers throughout the city who have bent over backward to help IFAM succeed from the very beginning. I'm confident that the artists will return under the professional management they deserve and hope we have a long, successful partnership for years to come."
According to city Fire Marshal Reynaldo Gonzales, it was a matter of volume. “We estimated the number of visitors based on the last year’s numbers and there was an agreement between both parties,” Gonzales tells SFR. “Unfortunately, their insurance fell through and it was their decision not to do the event on Saturday.”
IFAM founder John Torres Nez, who started the show after leaving the management team of the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts and Indian Market, tells SFR via email that the original policy accounted for 12,000 visitors, whereas the market eventually discovered it was required to be insured for 40,000. He doesn't echo any concerns about discrimination, though. "The Railyard folks were integral in saving the show," he writes. On Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 23, as this story was going to press, IFAM posted a formal thank you note on its Facebook page. "No conspiracy," it reads. "Just the unavoidable growing pains of a struggling, 100% volunteer organization trying to create opportunities for Indigenous artists."