It's been just over a month since the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts announced it would cancel the 99th annual Indian Market amid COVID-19 concerns, and organizers have used that time to forge new partnerships, pivot plans and ultimately announce that the event is going online this year.
In a news release sent earlier today, SWAIA states that in working with the New Mexico-based Clark Hulings Fund for Visual Artists, not only will it create an online presence for artists slated to participate in this year's market, provisions could soon be put into place allowing for a wider swath of creators to be represented online on a more year-round basis.
"There was the opportunity for us to develop this business model to take us through 2020, and after vetting that, the turnaround was quick," newly minted Indian Market director Kim Peone (Colville Confederated Tribes/Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians) tells SFR. "[The Hulings Fund] is nonprofit, but they have a business model that focuses on helping artists thrive…They develop a website or penetrate social marketing, that helps us with our strategies—it's not cookie cutter, it's something we can have ownership in and that we can grow organically and is something that's perpetual."
Peone says all the artists who had juried into the canceled August market—1,015 in total—will automatically be accepted into the virtual space. In subsequent years, others could come onboard in a multitude of ways, but as an online sales platform is new to the organization, it is focusing on those already accepted. Additionally, rather than charging booth fees for a weekend event ($440 for a single-sized booth, $770 for the larger size), Peone says SWAIA will charge aritsts $200 for the entire year; if things go smoothly, the site could be up as soon as August 1.
"I think the creative pieces you can pull into a virtual platform are unlimited," Peone explains, "What the platform gives us the opportunity to do is capture all those artists, and what we're hoping to do is more of…what is the story of this piece or that piece? Why did [the artist] develop that piece? There are layers that are going to be added that allow people to learn more about artists and the meaning behind their work."
As for Indigenous artists who possibly lack access to decent internet connections, Peone is quick to note SWAIA will assist them. How that will work is still being developed, but given the hubbub over the 2018 digital applications process wherein those without reliable internet felt slighted, SWAIA is committed to helping how it can. Other announcements are planned in the coming weeks, including how the financial aspects will work and what sort of quality assurance steps might be put into place.
"The platform is not going to just be two-dimensional where you're seeing pictures and some verbiage—you already get that on our website," Peone says. "But one of the things I feel is so important is the value we can bring. We're providing a sustainable avenue for artists and for SWAIA."