This week, the International Folk Art Market (Thursday-Sunday July 11-July 14, various times and locations; folkartmarket.org) enters its 16th year with more than 100 artists from 52 countries, a slew of additional events and a new CEO: Stewart Ashman. A Santa Fe resident since 1977, Ashman has worked with the market in different capacities since its inception and has watched it evolve into the globally known event it is today. He chatted with us about what makes IFAM not just a market, but an asset to the community.
Outside of the market, what are some of the things IFAM does?
We say it's more than a market, it's a miracle. The idea is that the market serves as a platform for educating artists so that they could take back what they've learned here to their own communities and apply them. Some artists have gone home and organized other artists and created their own, much smaller markets, but using us as an example. And we want to teach [shoppers] about sustainability and about knowing the source of their products. If you go to a store and buy a dress or a blouse, you just look at the price, and if it looks good and it fits, you buy it. But we want people to know where the cotton for that was grown, who spun it, who designed the dress and who actually sold it. I think that's an important piece in the current climate in the world to have an understanding of who the maker is for products, and that's another kind of side benefit.
Do you see a conscious effort to make the IFAM experience more accessible to more people?
We do have the ability to send artists to schools and community centers around all parts of the city. Obviously, if you want to go to Disneyland, you have to go to Disneyland so you can get a taste of it—so to see the whole program, you need to come to the market. But the community celebration on the Thursday before the market is really well-attended. That's on the Plaza, and it's free and open to the public and all the artists are there in their traditional costumes. We really want to demonstrate the harmony that exists between people in every way possible. Obviously not everybody can afford to buy expensive jewelry, but there's something for everybody in the market in terms of price point. As far as the admission price, it costs the same as going to the movies, and it's a real-life experience where you could actually interact with people from 50 countries without having to go to those 50 countries.
You grew up in Cuba; what kind of influence has that had on the work you've done with IFAM?
Well you know, having grown up in a developing country, I have sort of an empathy for that world. You know, understanding the importance of reuse and recycling of materials. We basically are a society here that discards a lot of things. You just go buy a new one. And that's not the reality in Cuba and in most of the world. You know, if your toaster breaks, somebody has got to figure out how to rewire it and fix it, because buying a new one is too expensive. So I think that has imparted an appreciation in me and how these objects are made. If somebody is a weaver, they actually buy the wool or grow the wool, and then shear the sheep and dye the wool themselves, and end up making a beautiful textile. And it's all from scratch, in a way. And I think that's something that I've learned to appreciate through my upbringing.