Despite myriad challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, including across-the-board cancellations in 2020, the International Folk Art Market wound up having a relatively successful 2021 event by spreading across multiple weekends and clamping down with safety protocols and timed ticketing.
And now, in the afterglow, the highly attended arts market has announced that CEO Stuart Ashman, who took the reins in 2019 after leaving a similar position at the Center for Contemporary Arts, will step down at the end of this year and be replaced by former IFAM Director of External Affairs Melissa Mann.
In an emailed statement, IFAM brass says Mann’s duties have included overseeing artist relations, fundraising, strategic development and other elements of the market, putting her into a uniquely qualified position to take over.
“We are thrilled Melissa has accepted the CEO position,” says IFAM Board of Directors Chair Jenny Kimball in the statement. “With her vast IFAM knowledge, the transition will be seamless...We are saddened that Stuart won’t be at the helm next year, but he will remain a cheerleader and friend of IFAM.”
“I’m staying in Santa Fe, but, like a baseball player, I’m now a free agent,” Ashman tells SFR. “I originally signed a three-year contract, that expires at the end of this year; we achieved a lot and we probably have the best cash reserves in the history of the market, so I figured it was time to hand it over to somebody else. I’m very happy...because I hired [Melissa Mann}, and she’s going to take the market to the next level.”
According to data available on the market’s website, roughly 9,000 visitors attended in 2021. In January, Ashman told SFR that 162 artists were accepted this year with 115 ultimately participating with the help of 800 volunteers. The market was founded in 2004.