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Room for both new and traditional Native art

October 8, 2018

My wife and I have been attending the Santa Fe Indian Market for nearly 20 years. We are always thrilled to see the sheer volume of quality artwork produced by members of Native tribes from around the Southwest and beyond. We have, over the years, put together a modest collection from some of our favorite artists, but are always on the lookout for new and exciting talent.

This year we noticed something different, and at first, we could not put our finger on it. The crowds were the same; the number of booths seemed to be the same; it just appeared there had been a shift toward a more youthful representation of tribal arts.

Our suspicions were confirmed after reading an article in the Santa Fe New Mexican (“An alternative Indian market,” Aug. 19). We were surprised to learn the reason for the “alternative market” was the ending of the tenured tradition that exempted established artists from the jury process that is the gateway to having a presence in the regular Indian Market. Some of these artists were previously awarded winners; others were older but still talented artists who depend on the yearly Indian Market for a substantial portion of their yearly income.

Gregory Schaaf, the acclaimed historian and chronicler of Native artwork, and his wife, Angie, are to be commended for organizing a separate free venue so many of these excluded artists were still able to display their work.

There is room for both the new and the traditional during this annual show. Respecting one’s elders would seem to be an honored cultural tradition worthy of continuous observance. It is our hope that the Santa Fe community sees fit to continue supporting the effort to provide a venue for these venerated artists.

Marc Forlenza is a former county councilman of San Juan County, Washington state. He currently resides in Santa Fe.

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