The historic Santa Fe Plaza is filled with white tents with
sand bags holding down the metal poles.
People buzz around: tourists, artist exhibitors, art
collectors and regular clients anticipate the busiest art weekend in town.
There are men with well-worn cowboy boots and hats, belt buckles and jeans who wear the fashion without a thought about looking the part.
It’s a community of people coming together for the two-day Southwestern Association for Indian Arts’
91st annual event.
This year's Indian Market features more than 1,100 artists from over 100 different Native tribes from the U.S. and Canada, all spread over 600 artist-booths that file along 14 city blocks around the downtown Plaza.
One hundred thousand expected visitors will find jewelry, pottery, sculpture, textiles, paintings, kachinas, bead work and baskets, as well as drums, bows and arrows and cradle boards.
Many artist-booths are rented by families.
One such family, from the Hopi Tribe in Arizona, has been coming to Indian Market since 1978. The years have brought growth and change through advertising and international attention.
“The growth has been positive for us. When we first came there were only seven Hopi artists. Now they come from practically every village—at least a dozen from my village,” says Hopi artist Manfred Susunkewa.
The event brings international attention to the fine arts, which feeds directly into Native American arts and culture.
Susunkewa makes kachina dolls in the old style, he says. “I was the first one to come back to the old style in the 1960’s…I revived it.” He uses cottonwood root and natural earth pigments like the blue mineral azurite.
Susunkewa’s wife Norma makes coil baskets, and their daughter, Sheryl, is a painter. Sheryl has known famous Indian artists like her great-uncle, Charles Loloma, since she was young. “They inspired me,” she says, “they told me, once you know the foundations [of artistic design], you can create anything. That’s what I carry on and take with me.”
The 2012 SWAIA Indian Market officially opens on Saturday, August 18 and goes on from 7am-5 pm; Sunday 8am-5 pm. The downtown Plaza is the heart of the event, but you won’t have trouble branching off the square and finding hundreds of more eager, well-prepared artists. For a list of satellite events, check out our Calendar.