The Southwestern Association for Indian Arts is taking its annual Santa Fe Indian Market online this summer.
Following the cancellation last month of the nonprofit’s downtown show — an August event that attracts as many as 120,000 visitors and has generated as much as $100 million in revenue — organizers said Friday a new virtual market will offer more artists a chance to sell their work.
The event also will help Native artists boost their web presence during the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers said.
Amanda Crocker, a spokeswoman for SWAIA, said all artists who were selected for the 2020 market or were on the waitlist are eligible to participate in the virtual event. That means more than 1,000 people could show their work through the online platform.
Many of the details have not been finalized, including the dates of the virtual market, Crocker said.
“All those decisions, about timing for roll out and how ‘long’ the Market will last, are being decided,” Crocker wrote in an email. “We have so many ideas for programming, it certainly will be much more than a weekend.”
Crocker said the Santa Fe-based nonprofit Clark Hulings Fund is serving as a consultant on the project.
In a letter to artists eligible for the online show, SWAIA said a “virtual booth fee” of $200 is due June 30. The fee will go toward creating an artist profile on swaia.org, embellishing that page to link to the artist’s own website or building a website, and paying for eligibility to compete in judging for ribbons and cash prizes.
The fee also will provide access to marketing and advertising through SWAIA, as well as training videos by the Clark Hulings Fund on topics ranging from online marketing to branding.
The benefits will last a year, the letter said.
Elizabeth Kirk, a former SWAIA board chairwoman and a jeweler from Isleta Pueblo and the Navajo Nation, said participation in the virtual market is well worth the price.
“Before this pandemic hit, I was looking at having a more online presence and working with numbers on costs and effectiveness of websites,” Kirk said. “I am keenly aware of what the costs are; $200 is a relatively small investment for what the organization is offering.”
Kirk has four Indian Markets under her belt. She said she convinced her father, Michael Kirk, an Isleta and Navajo jeweler who has shown his work at Indian Market since the 1980s, that the virtual market was a good idea.
“This pandemic has forced us to look at how we conduct business and meet new clients, as well as share new designs with established customers,” Kirk said. “Thankfully, we live in the age where technology can close the void created by the current situation.”
SWAIA was one of the first organizations to cancel a major summer event in Santa Fe. It announced its decision in early April, citing the risks posed by the pandemic.
Organizers of another Native art market are still waiting to make a decision on their event.
Gregory Schaaf, a retired Native American studies professor who started the Free Indian Market two years ago in Santa Fe, said the two-day show is still scheduled in August.
That could change.
“We want to do all the right things for all the right reasons,” Schaaf said. “No one knows what the conditions will be on the ground in Santa Fe in August.”
His group will wait until July 15 to ask the state Department of Health and city of Santa Fe if they recommend going forward with the show, he said.
If the show can’t go on, he said, the organizers will look at online options. If the show is allowed, Schaaf added, all artists and attendees will be required to wear face masks and everyone’s temperature will be checked at the door before they enter.
Schaaf said he takes COVID-19 seriously because many of the 300-plus artists participating in the free show are in their 70s, 80s and 90s — making them more at risk of developing a severe case of the illness.
The disease has devastated Native American communities in the state, with an outbreak still spreading in the Navajo Nation in New Mexico’s northwest corner. Over 56 percent of the nearly 4,700 people in the state with confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, are Native American, according to state data.
Schaaf said he wasn’t aware of any artists in the Free Indian Market who had died from COVID-19. “That’s an answer to our prayers,” he said. “We pray for their safety every day.”