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A Big Picture Guy: Dallin Maybee Breaks Down Indian Market 2014

Dallin Maybee, Interim COO of SWAIA, discusses the upcoming Santa Fe Indian Market with Alex Jacobs.
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Dallin Maybee stepped in as Interim COO of the Southwest Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) in early May, and has been hard at work ever since making sure that SWAIA's signature event, the Santa Fe Indian Market (happening August 23-24, 2014), enjoys another successful year. Maybee, Northern Arapaho and Seneca, was tapped during a time of some uncertainty for the Indian Market, with three key figures having left the organization to form the Indigenous Fine Art Market (IFAM). Within that context, and as one of the Santa Fe art community's own, Maybee was hailed as a wise choice: he comes from a family with a strong artistic tradition, and is himself a SWAIA award-winning artist, lawyer and professional dancer. ICTMN's Alex Jacobs caught up with Maybee to get the scoop on the preparations for this year's Indian Market.

Well, it's one month before the big show, and you’ve been Chief Operating Officer for 3 months; how do you feel about all the activities heading into this year’s Indian Market, and what does it all mean for the artists and the visitors?

Fashion by Kini Zamora; source:

I am extremely excited to see how everything has come together! While I have decided not to reinvent the wheel and allow the machine that is Indian Market to take its own shape, I am proud of some of the new initiatives and partnerships that SWAIA has entered into. I am also grateful for those institutions that have continued to support the mission of SWAIA, and partnered with us again, such as Kevin Gover and the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). New institutions such as the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (MIAC) and Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) have stepped forward and together we are creating wonderful relationships, and rightly so since we have similar mission statements, namely the cultivation and promotion of Indian art. For our artists and visitors, having the time we have had to pull the components together means we will see some amazing things at this market! Some things will feel familiar, other parts, more robust, and overall, I hope everyone goes away with a sense of awe at the events and experiences we all shared during Indian Market week. 

How’s your new job going -- was there a learning curve, or did you jump in feet first? Or maybe you’re a diver -- head first?

I can’t be more grateful for the many people who have stepped forward and offered their assistance and experience in growing Indian Market. I am a big picture sort of person, and so utilizing the institutional knowledge of people who have been a part of Indian Market for years and years has been invaluable. Additionally, while that learning curve has reared its ugly head here and there, it's been easier to fill in the holes when I have a dedicated staff who are absolutely committed to the artists, sponsors, collectors, and visitors. I like to think my life experiences have leant themselves to adjusting to the situation I chose to jump into, and that army of committed people who stand beside me really helps. I have been a police officer, a prosecutor, an artist, a dancer (with American Indian Dance Theater, Spirit the Seventh Fire, etc.), and I have traveled the world. So in many ways, I appreciate the way in which life led me to this place, where I can draw from many experiences and perspectives in the hopes that we will find success.

Coming from warrior cultures doesn’t hurt either. My family and friends are part of this Indian Market family -- what better reason is there to fight for the continued success and stability of Indian Market?

As an artist, you must know that crazy feeling getting ready for the Big Show, the days and hours leading up to Saturday, then there’s that strange calm as the sun comes up, people start moving and you hear that morning buzz. You think that feeling will be different for you as a Director rather than an artist in a booth?

Well, honestly I am not sure what to expect. My week actually starts pretty early as we prepare for the events and I am hoping that as each component falls into place my anxiety will settle. Overseeing all the different parts seems daunting but we literally have numerous individuals who have taken ownership over each of the individual pieces and I am absolutely confident that we have the right people in place. I am excited for their success and at the end of market, I can only suspect that that sweet feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction will be wonderful. 

Can you tell us what it was like for you when you won the Best of Show Award in 2007, with the children’s book ledger art piece? And this year, will you actually be making any art for this year’s show?

Boy, 2007 was an amazing year. Those children’s books were absolutely special to me for I found a place for some narratives that I had wanted to explore for a while. The books told stories of relationships of children and their parents and I was so honored that people found not only the art compelling, but the narrative themselves special and heartwarming. I suppose it horrified people that I let visitors handle the books and thumb through the pages and illustrations, even children were able to check them out! I am certainly positive they didn’t think twice about that purple ribbon next to those 140 year old pages they were looking through. I was delighted though that children appreciated them and enjoyed them.

Dallin Maybee, the artist, with his ledger-art children's books at the 2007 Santa Fe Indian Market, where they were deemed Best of Show. Source:

This year I will have some work at my booth. Not much, but I have been able to create a few pieces that I really like. This market is the gold standard of art shows and as an artist I definitely wouldn’t want to miss it for the world!

I’ve seen your family grow at Market time, so what is Indian Market like for you personally and professionally? And what do the NextGen SWAIA Arts & Culture events mean to you?

I love that my children have grown up with Indian Market. It exposes them to art forms that would be difficult to enjoy at any other time, and here, they are all in Santa Fe during one weekend. My children love getting dressed up in the outfits Naomi and I create for them and even my son has become as serious as a 14 year old boy can be about creating a “big” piece for market. I want to continue to grow the youth initiatives, but maintain an appropriate focus on those master artists who have laid the foundation for young artists. 

I hear A Tribe Called Red will play two shows around Market. There's also the Native Cinema Showcase at the NM History Museum, running all week. There's also the Awards Show at the Convention Center and the Auction Gala at La Fonda Hotel Saturday evening -- it all sounds pretty busy as a typical Market week goes, can you tell us about any of those events or other shows going on around Market time?

SWAIA has partnered with the MIAC in offering a wonderful reception on Thursday Night before the Tribe Called Red concert. "Legacies, Legends, and Living Artists: A reception Honoring Allan Houser" is a food and wine event where several SWAIA Best of Show winners, sculptors participating in the Houser exhibit opening soon at the MIAC, SWAIA fashion designers, and other artists will present a preview of some of their exciting new works that will debut at Indian Market. It should be a great event where accessibility to our artists will make for some wonderful conversation and laughter. More information will be forthcoming.

The Best of Show luncheon and previews are always spotlight events. For a brief day, many of our artists’ best pieces will be in one location for the enjoyment of all who attend. It’s exciting to see the pieces up close and personal, many will briefly debut on Saturday morning, only to be swept up by those collectors who love them enough and want the first opportunity to purchase them. It is not just a legend that people camp out overnight in an artist’s booth so as to be the first in line to pick the piece that they want! 

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Another more robust component is the fashion related events surrounding Market. As a way of showcasing what some of our fashion designers are doing, we have increased their visibility in the form of previews of their work at various events. Designers such as Orlando Dugi, Bethany Yellowtail, Jamie Okuma, Carol Melting Tallow, and Sho Sho Esquiro will provide a glimpse of some of their work at different events. Many have participated in New York Fashion Week, at shows in LA and other places. At Indian Market, designers and models will be at the Thursday reception at the MIAC, at a Fashion Show at Cathedral Park stage on Saturday, at the Silent Auction reception before the live auction Gala at La Fonda, as well as a small showcase during the Fashion Challenge competition on the Plaza on Sunday Morning.

What do think the future holds for SWAIA as an organization and what about future Indian Markets?

Just as our cultural identity is a living and breathing entity, so too is SWAIA and the nature of Indian Market. We must evolve as the character and personality of our artists evolve. I am truly grateful to have been a small part of that evolution and I can only hope to be a continuing part of that growth, in whatever capacity that may be. I am assuming I will return to the Board if I do not continue on in this capacity, and I would gladly do so. I joined the Board in an effort to assist SWAIA in any way I could. With all the continued success I know SWAIA will find the stability it needs but I also absolutely believe that we need to approach things differently than we did in the past. We have to explore new ways in which we can fulfill our mission statements, serve the artist community, and remain healthy for the sake of the entire Indian Market family. I have some ideas which I can best accomplish by returning to the Board, some of the new initiatives I would like to pursue, and I will rely heavily on institutional knowledge as well as the experience of many in our family who have stepped forward and offered their assistance, expertise, and guidance. Leroy Garcia at Blue Rain has been a wonderful sounding board and I am proud to call him my friend. During our more recent difficulties, some people stepped back in their support where others, like Blue Rain, stepped forward and declared that I, the SWAIA Board, and the thousands of artists we represent, would not face these difficulties alone. I am absolutely humbled and grateful for that. 

Alex Jacobs
Santa Fe, NM
July 26, 2014