Community , Culture

SWAIA creates new Virtual Indian Market

Photo caption: The Santa Fe Indian Market, the largest Native American art market of its kind, will be virtual this year due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 virus. Photo by Eugene Tapahe/Tapahe Photography

This year’s Santa Fe Indian Market, the largest Native American art market of its kind, is going virtual – thanks to the coronavirus.

Hundreds of artists depend on the event for their yearly income. The event draws thousands of buyers of Native American art from all over the world to Santa Fe’s historic plaza. Once news broke that Indian Market was going to be postponed or possibly canceled, artists were devastated.

The Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, the entity that puts on the Indian Market, knew the cancelation would negatively impact artists’ incomes so they partnered with the non-profit Clark Hulings Fund for Visual Artists.  

Amanda Crocker, SWAIA Public Relations and Marketing Director, said the 2021 Indian Market was anticipated to be the 100-year mark for SWAIA’s Santa Fe Indian Market. However, she said postponing this year’s event the big centennial celebration will be in 2022. 

“We’re considering this year sort of the 98th and a half Indian market, so next year will be the 99th and 2022 will be the official 100th market,” she said. 

Crocker said all artists juried in this year are guaranteed their spot for 2021 and will not need to go through the jurying process again. For the 2021 Santa Fe Indian Market they are hoping to create more booth spaces for the artists, but they are still working through the logistics. 

According to Crocker, the Santa Fe Indian Market had 1,015 artists juried in for this year, but only 855 were assigned a booth space and the rest were placed on a waiting list. Those on the waiting list could either share a booth with an assigned artist or wait for an assigned artist to drop out. Now, everyone is eligible to participate in the Virtual Indian Market.

“All the people who had a booth and those on the waiting list can opt-in because we are not limited to the physical space of Santa Fe, but it will still be for the (2020) juried artists who went through that process,” she said.

The artists interested in the Virtual Indian Market need to pay a $200 booth fee for access to the new e-commerce platform to create a new website (for one year) or link to the artist’s current website. SWAIA is currently working on the logistics to have a Virtual Best of Show competition, ribbons and cash prizes. 

COVID-19 Impact on Artists 

According to Crocker, SWAIA was already considering online options for artists with the Clark Hulings Fund before the concerns surrounding the COVID-19 virus outbreak. “We were looking for ways to enrich artists’ experience and talking about some sort of membership for artists where they would have access to this online learning platform.”

When COVID-19 hit, they pursued this idea of an online business presence to help artists because many depend on art shows for their yearly income. Many artists like Bryan Waytula (Cherokee), were not expecting the COVID-19 virus to impact their sales and plans for art shows.  

“It really started to hit when these shows started having a domino effect, being canceled one after another and left me wondering, ‘What am I going to do?’” Waytula said. 

All summer Native art shows have been canceled due to the COVID-19 virus and artists are feeling uncertain about art shows in the fall and winter.

“I had no idea, although I was prepared for the off-months because you have ups-and-downs and had always been trying to build up my business account,” Waytula said. “But, I need some shows.” 

Eric Tippeconnic (Comanche Nation/ Cherokee) is another artist affected by the repercussions of the COVID-19 virus. He is a painter and a college history professor. The Heard Museum Indian Fair and Market in March was the last art show Tippeconnic attended. 

Tippeconnic already had his art shows for the year planned out. He also had numerous commissioned pieces and murals. But now, his summer art shows are canceled and his murals were rescheduled. 

He is grateful for the work as a college professor and has sold some artwork through commissions but it’s not equivalent to the revenue he made from previous art shows. 

“It’s nowhere near the sales I would have if I was going to the markets, so it (COVID-19) has negatively impacted me,” Tippeconnic said. 

Ethelbah (Upton “Uppie” Greyshoes II) is Santa Clara Pueblo and White Mountain Apache. He is a sculptor and a former 2002 SWAIA Board Chair. Ethelbah said he has many friends who rely solely on art shows for their income and he is excited for SWAIA’s Virtual Indian Market because it will help him and his friends.

“I think it’s a great thing to do … I’m definitely going to take part in this (Virtual Indian Market),” Ethelbah said.

Ethelbah spoke to his son, Upton III, about marketing and social media plans. “We’re fired up to make a good presence on this Virtual Indian Market show.”

Excitement for Virtual Indian Market

The announcement of the Virtual Indian Market is receiving positive responses and artists are excited to participate.

“We have so many ideas for programs and how to make this an interactive experience to draw people in and encourage them to visit the artists’ site,” Crocker said. 

Crocker said the plan is to launch the Virtual Indian Market on August 1. Some additional ideas for the virtual market include: panel discussions, fundraising opportunities, or virtual gallery tours. The SWAIA committee is still in the planning process and brainstorming exciting ideas to make the virtual market an interactive experience.  

“We plan to give people a taste of what it’s like to be in Santa Fe during Indian Market on a virtual scale and maybe entice people who haven’t been to (Santa Fe Indian Market) mark their calendars next year to be there in person,” she said.