For artist Wilmer Vásquez, the few days that make up the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market are the most economically important of the year.
“This is an opportunity to support our family and our community,” said Vásquez, a member of a family of master weavers from Oaxaca, Mexico. “We can make tens of thousands of dollars in a few days while working and preserving our culture.”
“This is the most important event of our year,” said Jerónimo Coll, a leatherworker and metallurgist with the gaucho tradition from southern Argentina.
“I have worked for many months to do what you see here,” said Coll, holding an elegant stitched leather and Damascus steel knife. “My work is my only source of income.
In 2020, these revenues disappeared when the International Folk Art Market was canceled due to the pandemic. The impact on artists whose livelihood is directly linked to this market, and to tourism in general, has been enormous.
“They felt devastated,” said Marketplace CEO Stuart Ashman. “The economic impact has been so strong.”
“It has been a difficult year,” said Vásquez. “We need this market.
For 17 years, IFAM has been an indispensable resource for master folk artists who travel to Santa Fe each year to sell their unique products.
Since 2004, more than 1,000 artists from over 100 countries, mostly from the developing world, have visited Santa Fe Museum Hill.
“Since we started, the performers have made $ 34 million,” Ashman said, walking past a row of stalls displaying colorful blown glass from the Palestinian territories, Alaskan fish skin baskets and a row of replicas. of Cuban vehicle sculptures.
“He bought the city a hurricane alarm system with the sales money in 2019,” Ashman said of Cuban artist Leandro Gómez Quintero, who makes meticulously detailed carvings of refurbished Jeeps from the city. WWII and old Soviet vehicles often found in the east. Cuba. “It provides so much for the communities at home.”
On average, IFAM stands bring in $ 17,000 during the market, more than some artists or artist groups earn in a year. When the pandemic wiped out this income, IFAM established the Artist Opportunity Fund to sell the work of selected artists online.
“We had people in tears who said they were saved from not being able to eat,” Ashman said of artists who can benefit from the program.
Vásquez said his family’s absence from IFAM was compounded by the almost complete lack of tourism amid the COVID-19 shutdown in Oaxaca.
“Almost six months we were at home working and not selling,” Vásquez said of the lack of customers in his hometown. “The village we live in was touristy. At that time there was none.”
For Ukrainian ceramist Ivan Bobkov, a beginning artist at IFAM, the market was an opportunity to make much-needed money after a few trying years.
“It was a tragedy,” Bobkov said of the pandemic, which hit Ukraine particularly hard. “I lost seven teachers, friends, to COVID and others to the war” with neighboring Russia.
Bobkov said the economic situation for artists in Ukraine, although still grim in recent years, has become almost untenable during the pandemic.
“Total isolation,” said Bobkov, artist and teacher. “No way to sell art, no students to teach, and no money to feed your family.”
“It’s still not easy,” said Bobkov. “But things are better.”
This year’s event, with reduced capacity due to the coronavirus, was not smooth. Four of the artists who arrived in the United States tested positive for the virus – all artists were tested upon arrival. All four, including everyone they came with, had to self-quarantine. The volunteers sold the artists’ work, but Ashman said, “It sells better when the artist is here.”
For Vásquez, the money he earned in the market will be reinvested in the family business and the community.
“We are going to use it to plant corn in our community,” he said. “And maybe fix the house.”