As the COVID-19 crisis continues, the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts announced today it is postponing the August 2020 Indian Market. This year's market—the 99th—won't happen until 2021. And the centennial event is now scheduled for 2022, leaving countless Indigenous artists from around the country without one of their largest moneymaking opportunities of the year.
A letter signed by SWAIA Board Chairman Thomas A Teegarden announcing the postponement quotes board member and artist Dominique Toya acknowledging the decision was a difficult one "because Indian Market is a big part of my livelihood." Nonetheless, she says, "it is more important to protect the well-being of fellow artists, their families, our customers and all of our communities."
"It was a devastating decision. This year is a going to be a huge financial blow for a lot of people," Teegarden tells SFR, "so it was not a decision we took lightly."
Artists who were already accepted into the cancelled 99th iteration of the event can assume they are automatically accepted into the 2021 market, the letter says, and full refunds will be made available for booth fees (or applied to the following year's fees).
"It's tough and people are definitely going to feel the pinch," painter Nocona Burgess (Comanche) tells SFR. "But I think we're, as Americans, we're not taking it seriously enough, and that curve isn't going to be squashed, and if you have 100,000 people coming in from all over the world or states that maybe aren't taking it as seriously, it would be dangerous."
Burgess, who has shown at Indian Market for years, tells SFR it is the one big show he still does annually outside of his gallery events. Further, he says, he plans to phase to an expanded online presence, including a virtual opening at Manitou Galleries on Friday, April 10.
"You're just going to have to find new ways to sell and work. I'm hoping collectors will step up and buy," he says, referring to all Indigenous artists hit by today's news. "You can still buy from these artists and not have to come to Santa Fe. Collectors know the quality of the work; I just think it's kind of a new way of dealing with stuff this year."
For its part, SWAIA says it is exploring a potential virtual market meant to promote online sales for artists impacted by the postponement.
The letter also encouraged fans and regular visitors to donate to SWAIA, which will also take a financial hit. How exactly the postponement will affect the countless galleries, hotels and restaurants still grappling with COVID-19 remains unseen, but it probably won't be pretty.
"Our early reading of all this is that a lot of our artists who are self-employed are going to have a hard time tapping into some of the relief packages that are out there," Teegarden tells SFR, "but by working with the federal government and the tribal governments, we may find some avenues [to help] the ones who need it the most."
This is a developing story and SFR will update with further information when possible.