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Mavericks: Trio Founds IFAM to Challenge Santa Fe Indian Market

Former SWAIA administrators John Torres Nez, Tailinh Agoyo, and Paula Rivera have announced the formation of the new Indigenous Fine Art Market.
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Three former SWAIA managers announce new Indigenous Fine Art Market in Santa Fe, to run Thursday August 21 to Saturday August 23.

John Torres Nez, Tailinh Agoyo, and Paula Rivera announced on Sunday, April 27, the formation of a new Indian art market, to be called The Indigenous Fine Art Market, or IFAM. Nez was the former SWAIA chief operating officer, and is now the President of IFAM; Agoyo, the former SWAIA marketing director, is now the IFAM Director of Marketing and Creative Services; and Rivera, the former SWAIA Indian Market manager and artist services associate, is now the IFAM Director of Program Operations.

The new Indigenous Fine Arts Market will include stages for performances and will be "a juried art show with very high-quality native arts," said Agoyo. She also said hundreds of artists have expressed interest in taking part. The venue has been rumored to be the campus of the Santa Fe Indian School on the main street of Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe. If this is the case, all 19 Pueblo Governors will have to vote on the decision. This is about a 2 mile walk from the Santa Fe Plaza, where SWAIA’s 93rd Indian Market will take place. IFAM says they will most likely have to provide bus shuttles from the Plaza to the campus.

Photo tweeted by Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp-Muhl tweeted by Lennon to Wayne Coyne. Source: via The Lost Ogle.

This year, the SWAIA Indian Market runs from Saturday August 23 to Sunday August 24, with events and activities running all week long, starting Monday August 18 -- but the momentum usually starts on Wednesday with openings, receptions and parties. SWAIA has hired a new high-powered public relations firm to handle social media and the negative publicity of the resignations. Critics point out this cost and service would be unnecessary if SWAIA had listened to the concerns of these managers, since expenses were a root cause of their departure. There was a conflict with the new Chief Development Officer, Charlene Porsild, who was hired to find funding and allow Nez to concentrate on running the actual Market. Both Nez and Porsild were reportedly unhappy with how the arrangement worked out and were looking for other opportunities because of conflicts with each other and the SWAIA Board.

RELATED: A Letter to SWAIA Artists Regarding the Departure of John Torres Nez

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All three announced their resignations on Facebook and now there is a Facebook page to handle IFAM inquires and a new IFAM website is set to launch on Friday, May 2. After Tailinh Agoyo resigned she criticized the working conditions at SWAIA and blamed the Board for “allowing a hostile work environment where staff was demeaned, insulted and bullied on a constant basis.” SWAIA conducted an inquiry by an outside firm and said that they found no basis for the complaint. Rivera criticized CDO Charlene Porsild, saying, “I chose to support and work for what was in the best interest of the artists, who are the family and community which I am part of. Unfortunately, my vision is not aligned with the SWAIA Board of Directors or CDO Porsild. I do not support the current direction of Santa Fe Indian Market…and resign with a heavy heart.”

The other lightning rod is new SWAIA Board President Stockton Colt, who has toed a generally positive line and a “let’s move forward” attitude but had dropped a few critical comments earlier. There is a feeling among the Board, who include a majority of Natives and Native artists, that there is not enough room among collectors, buyers and tourists to support both Indian Markets on the same weekend. Dallin Maybee, an award winning artist and Board member, wished IFAM luck, saying we are all friends and need each other. Another Board member Native businessman, Roger Fragua, mentioned a failed attempt to do something similar during Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta. Tailinh Agoyo said on a TV report, “we are acting on this as a positive movement for change.”

Over the years, Native Artists upset with SWAIA have threatened a separate Native-run Market, either at the SFIS campus or other nearby Native venues. As artists, we all know that even 1000 artists can be replaced within a week and that has always been an issue, in that SWAIA doesn’t listen to artist needs or concerns because we are all replaceable. Artists let their guard down because they trusted this SWAIA team of Nez, Rivera and Agoyo to have our backs and to listen to our concerns. Artists generally felt that this was the best team we’ve had in years and that’s where the surprise and controversy stems from. Everything seemed to be OK for the future of Indian Market after the Board declined to offer previous director Bruce Bernstein a new contract (due to lawsuits filed by female Native SWAIA staffers) and a successful controversy-free 2013 Market. This all blew up with the three resignations, which took place between March 31 and April 24, and SWAIA has been in damage control mode while getting ready for the 93rd annual event.

Artists feel they don’t get the proper respect, since they are the main draw for the event and sometimes feel left out of decisions that affect them. Indian Market doubles the size of Santa Fe’s population during that weekend, with estimates of 80,000 to 100,000 visitors to Santa Fe and New Mexico at that time, bringing in around $100 million in revenue. Indian Market brings in more money on that one weekend than the Santa Fe Opera’s entire summer season. Booth fees creep up every year and with all the fees artists pay every year, it still does not allow them to become SWAIA members who can vote. The current issues may stem from the Native staffers hours being cut back and losing benefits and “lines of credit” being offered “generously” by non-Native board members.

SWAIA hired John Paul Rangel (Apache/Navajo) as the new PR/Marketing director; he's a respected local artist who worked in that position previously, and new hires will be announced in the coming weeks. SWAIA’s deadline for booth fee applications is May 23, and then May 30 with a late-fee. One hundred artists are on their waiting list. There has been some movement by artists from SWAIA to IFAM, so there will be room for artists with SWAIA and some who anticipated a SWAIA booth but were rejected due to the high volume of applications may now find room with IFAM. The common greeting/goodbye in Santa Fe, like “Aloha” in Hawaii is, “See you at Market!” -- and that will take on new meanings this year.

Alex Jacobs, April 30, 2014

Alex Jacobs, Mohawk, is a visual artist and poet based in Santa Fe.