International Folk Art Market

A detail from the 2019 International Folk Art Market, photo Gene Peach

In July, the Santa Fe tourist season really kicks into high gear, spurred by back-to-back markets that bring in the visitors by the thousands. Not this year. With restrictions on crowd size in place, all of the city’s major festivals and markets have either been postponed or have looked to alternate ways of reaching their audience. The annual International Folk Art Market, which scheduled its in-person market for July 2021, had as many as 21,000 attendees in 2018. That year, it made as much as $3 million in sales.

Since 2004, up to 160 artisans from 50 countries attend the market annually. Because of the pandemic, IFAM is taking the market virtual for 2020. The highlight this year is an online auction.

“We’ll have lectures and presentations by various stars of the folk art world,” says IFAM’s Chief Executive Officer Stuart Ashman. “They talk about the impact of missing the market and what they’re doing now while there is no market.”

The online auction opens at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, July 8, and continues until 9:30 p.m. on July 10, following the Friday night gala (7 p.m., free). A link to register (required) and a full schedule of events are available on IFAM’s website (

“We considered having the gala be ticketed, but we thought we’d have a better chance of selling the silent auction items if we made it free,” says Ashman, who joins IFAM’s Board Chairwoman Jane Reid, Mayor Alan Webber, and Department of Cultural Affairs Secretary Debra Garcia y Griego for the prerecorded gala presentation. “The potential audience is larger than the number of people who would normally attend IFAM’s in-person market gala.”

About 100 items, between $100 and $5,000, will be offered. They include a Namibian ostrich shell necklace, Otomi embroidery by Julio Laja Chichicaxtle of Mexico, and an Uzbek Ikat men’s shirt by Bibi Hanum. IFAM’s also auctioning off “experiences,” like dinner for six with a private chef at The Compound restaurant.

“The majority of the items at the auction are donated by collectors who purchased them either at the market or at the artists’ studios when they traveled on the Passport to Folk Art trips that we promote,” Ashman says. “We do have a small fund to buy art directly from the artists. We have a couple of pieces in the auction that were acquired that way, so the artists already got their money. We’re valuing them at the same price for the auction.”

All of the proceeds go to support IFAM. Ashman hopes the live markets will resume next year, but he’s preparing for other contingencies. “Everything is up in the air because we don’t know where the world is going to be with this virus by that time,” he says. “It may be that the governor only allows gatherings of 100 people, in which case we’d have to modify our plan. One of the things we thought of is that we have these two big parking lots at our facility here on Cerrillos Road. If we can only have 100 people, maybe we could run a market with 10 artists per week and run it all summer. But these are very preliminary brainstorming ideas that haven’t been vetted by the board. At some point, we’re going to have to make decisions.”

But, he says, what IFAM learns from its new virtual programming will carry over. “We’ve been wanting to have an online store for a long time. It could be that by the time the next market is up we already have a modest online store. One of the things that happens a lot of the time is that artists would prefer not to take all their work back to their countries. We have a retail space here at Cerrillos Road, and if we have an online component, we could take that work on consignment.” IFAM is also developing a virtual mentor-to-market program to train artists in developing and maintaining their businesses.

What follows is a peek at some of the artists involved, the wares they sell, and their craft. ◀

Mexico City-based fashion designer Carla Fernández works with indigenous artisans throughout Mexico to create contemporary fashions that honor cultural roots. 

Cuban printmaker Dairan Fernández de la Fuente's color woodcut's recall the rich graphic arts of Cuba's artistic heritage, drawing on nostalgic themes.

Georges Valris continues the tradition of making Haitian Vodou flags for liturgical, as well, as decorative use, crafting vibrantly colored images of Vodou spirits from sequins and beads.

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