For 15 years, the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, the largest of its kind in the world, has showcased works by more than 1,000 folk artists from 100 countries around the globe. Begun in 2004 as a small grassroots organization in Santa Fe featuring works by 60 artists, the International Folk Art Market has grown from a one-weekend event into a year-round nonprofit.
The market’s mission is dedicated “to create economic opportunities for and with folk artists worldwide who celebrate and preserve folk art traditions,” and its vision is a “world that values the dignity” of handmade art and that “honors timeless cultural traditions.”
Founded by Thomas Aageson, executive director of the Museum of New Mexico Foundation and former director of the Aid to Artisans; Charlene Cerny, former director of Santa Fe’s Museum of International Folk Art; businesswoman Judith Espinar and philanthropist Charmay Allred, the International Folk Art Market seeks to unite the world’s people through the international exchange of folk art.
An early sponsor of the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, funded 10 artists during the organization’s infancy and in 2007 began honoring the market’s products with its Award of Excellence.
More recently, the July event has resulted in $3 million worth of folk art purchases, much of which has returned to the artists’ native countries and, in turn, to their communities where it has gone toward construction of schools and vital infrastructure.
Diverse countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Near East and the Western Hemisphere are all represented at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market. Since many of the works are from developing countries where the artisan sector is an important industry, there’s much potential for folk artists to make a positive impact in their home communities.
Unlike fine art, folk art represents traditional cultures and conveys community values. Most works of folk art are utilitarian, as opposed to being decorative, which is characteristic of other art forms.
In other words, folk artwork originally served a practical purpose and was duplicated over time to meet the needs of future generations. Another characteristic of folk art is that it’s created only one piece at a time and is never produced in large quantities or on an assembly line.
Most folk artists learn their craft informally within their communities, rather than through formal education, and represent the entire community’s culture, as opposed to that of the individual artist’s personal identity. Folk artists generally use such commonplace media as paper, clay, cloth, wood and metal.
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