Inaugural Virtual Indian Market kicks off

(Native artist Jerry Ingram’s work is seen at the 2016 SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market.)

Meghan Sullivan

Updated: The monthlong event, which replaces this year's market in Santa Fe, New Mexico, features virtual demonstrations and coffee chats, plus more vendors than ever

Meghan Sullivan
Indian Country Today

The well-known Santa Fe Indian Market has moved online because of the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing guidelines.

The inaugural Virtual Indian Market started Saturday and lasts until Aug. 31. It’s being held through a collaboration between the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, which plans and stages the annual market, and the nonprofit Clark Hulings Fund for Visual Artists, which provides artists with business training and other support.

“With many summer art markets canceled, we are thrilled to create a virtual Indian Market,” said Elizabeth Hulings, executive director of the Clark Hulings Fund. “The hundreds of artists who participate will not face an economic catastrophe on the heels of a medical one. Now, thanks to the work we are undertaking with SWAIA, artists will be able to showcase and sell their work virtually.”

The event features programming such as online coffee chats with artists, panel discussions and virtual art demonstrations. Attendees will be able to virtually “booth hop” to visit various artists in their studios.

Weekly art auctions will take place throughout the duration of the program, with the ability to preview the artwork submitted for judging starting Aug. 8.

Additionally, more vendors are able to participate this year, since the virtual market is not constrained by physical space limitations.

The transition to a virtual platform comes as a relief to the many people who participate in the annual Sante Fe Indian Market. As the world’s largest Native American art gathering, according to the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, around 100,000 people attend the market each year to buy art from more than 1,000 Native artists. The event serves as both a beautiful cultural celebration and a significant economic opportunity. Many artists make up to half their yearly income from the annual gathering.

“Santa Fe Indian Market is all about creating a platform and exposure for Native artists,” said Ira Wilson, former Southwestern Association for Indian Art executive director. “We are fortunate to be working with and supporting so many talented artists. It’s truly a dream.”

The current Southwestern Association for Indian Art’s executive director is Kim Peone, Colville Confederated Tribes / Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

The Santa Fe Indian Market was created by the Museum of New Mexico in 1922, as part of the Santa Fe Fiesta celebration. Since then, it has grown into the largest cultural event in New Mexico, and into one of the most well-known Native American art events in the world.

“I want to wish all the artists across the United States and Canada a wonderful market,” said U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, in a video message welcoming participants to the virtual market. “Stay safe, and keep creating beauty.”

Details on the Virtual Indian Market: https://swaia.org/

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Meghan Fate Sullivan, Koyukon Athabascan, is a Stanford Rebele Fellow for Indian Country Today. She grew up in Alaska, and is currently reporting on her home state from our Anchorage Bureau.

Correction: The previous article listed Ira Wilson as the Southwestern Association for Indian Art’s executive director, it is Kim Peone.

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