We Are the Seeds

The Indigenous arts market we deserve

Artist Atsatsa' Antonio creates one-of-a-kind knives from found materials. (Courtesy We Are the Seeds)

Atsatsa’ Antonio taps into the “unused potential of the things that people throw away.” Junkyards, the free column on Craigslist—those are his haunts, the places he goes to find materials, like chainsaw chains and rebar, for his hand-forged tools. There is “no need for money or currency,” as he says, only skills, and an eye for spotting raw material from the once-obsolete. If you visit his website, redkrow.com, you can see the process: a long piece of rebar, red-hot from coals, is pounded on an anvil, the malleable metal giving way to a blade with a textured spiral handle. From the glinting finished product, you might never know its beginnings as a reinforcing rod. He’s a young blacksmith, just 22, though it’s been ten years since Antonio first tried his hand at metal working in Window Rock, Arizona.

Antonio is one of one hundred artists participating in the inaugural We Are the Seeds market taking place in the Santa Fe Railyard Park Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 17-19. Seeds, as co-founder Tailinh Agoyo, calls it, "had an organic growth. It matches our name." Agoyo came to the table with past experience from both the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts and the now defunct Indigenous Fine Arts Market, as did Paula Mirabal; together they are co-directors. Pooling their resources, along with those of Sharon Lucero, Seeds was born in September of last year—it's less than a year in the making.

They've had the help of CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia, a clearinghouse of management tools for nonprofits like Seeds. Agoyo is currently based in Philly and saw their support as fundamental to getting the project off the ground.

"[The outcome] is a reflection of who we are as planners," Agoyo mentions. This isn't hubris talking, but a dedicated commitment to making Indigenous art and voices matter. That said, the mission of Seeds is to feature fine art by Native artists, as well as other cultural events, including live musical performances (Jennifer Elizabeth Kreisberg, who opened the Women's March in Washington, DC, in January of this year, will be one of seven on the Santa Fe Seeds stage) and youth workshops. The Native couture brand ACONAV is set to host a fashion event and Nicole Kahbah Johnny offers a spoken word poetry workshop. That's not all. A legacy program celebrates the work of elderly Native artists, and women artists will be highlighted in the Honor Women Art Share Program. For its first year, Seeds is already setting a high bar.

On the choice of the Santa Fe Railyard Park, it was clear that the space had a certain energy that Seeds was looking to cultivate. "We wanted it to be intimate, to understand the needs of the artists," Agoyo explains, and "to really capitalize on the Railyard as a community space." To her, the district is an "active participant" in the overall feel of the event. And as Antonio put it, "Seeds is a good avenue for up-and-coming artists to showcase their work in another environment and platform." Seeds is refreshing in this regard. The Plaza, while historical, is already laden with the associations of other longstanding events like SWAIA's Indian Market that runs August 19 and 20; the founders of Seeds are forging their own path.

They have an eye toward the future and beyond the Southwest after the August event closes. As Seeds grows, Agoyo, Mirabal and Lucero hope to organize more regional shows outside of Santa Fe—the Northwest and East Coast are hubs for potential expansion. Seeds will reportedly introduce education initiatives, too, with mentorships and art programs in Indigenous and non-Indigenous public schools. "That's where art is special. You can create a bond across any barrier," Agoyo points out.

It's a truism to speak about barriers in public education—they can be so unyielding. Yet now more than ever, it's necessary to put a mirror up to the blind spots of classroom curriculum, namely the fact that most accounts of Native people are one-dimensional. Even worse, those accounts almost always relegate Indigenous peoples to the past. Here, Seeds is part of a groundswell of initiatives that address the realities of Indigenous people now, from education to policy.

As for Antonio, he will soon complete his degree in environmental studies with a concentration on earthquake risk in Portland, Oregon, at Lewis and Clark College. Besides that, he works at a high-end Japanese kitchen workshop as a knife sharpener. As we wrapped up our phone conversation, he pressed on one point: curiosity. It was curiosity that motivated him to try his hand at blacksmithing when the tools he had as a kid were pretty bare-bones. It's the same curiosity that took him to Portland, Norway and, in the not-so-distant future, Japan.

Follow SFR on Instagram the week of the market for a special takeover by Tailinh Agoyo.

We Are The Seeds
9 am-5 pm Thursday and Friday Aug. 17 and 18;
9 am-4 pm Saturday Aug. 19. Free.
Santa Fe Railyard,
Cerrillos Road and Guadalupe Street,

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