Market needs a new game plan

August 19, 2018

The International Folk Art Market is a worthy organization that has done much to raise awareness of the tremendous breadth of folk artists worldwide and to provide economic opportunities that have meaningful impact on the lives of those artists and their communities.

However, a quick review of IFAM’s publicly available financial statements reveals annual expenses incurred to host the annual market of more than $3 million. Less than half of these expenditures are recouped through revenue generated at the market, with more than half of the cost, or over $1.5 million, having to be raised from generous supporters each year to make up the shortfall. Clearly this is not a viable long-term financing strategy.

Last week, Jeff Snell’s role as CEO of IFAM was abruptly terminated after achieving record-breaking market performance because of his desire to expand the market to new venues and fund the growth with capital provided by a new breed of investors that seek investments that generate socially positive outcomes, according to The New Mexican.

These so-called “social impact” investors have become a significant influence in investing and charitable circles, having funded over $25 billion of investments in the U.S. last year alone. Snell’s vision would have spread the fixed costs of a single market over a larger number of revenue-producing events, providing more economic opportunity for artists and making IFAM more solid financially.

Snell should be applauded for soberly assessing IFAM’s future, acknowledging the fact that its current reliance on charitable giving on an ongoing basis is not sustainable and urging the board to consider alternative strategies for growing and funding the market into the future. If board chairwoman Kathryn Coleman, vice chairwoman Jane Reid and the rest of the IFAM board are “committed to expanding opportunities for artists” as they stated in their announcement of Snell’s departure and want to secure IFAM’s financial future, they need a new game plan.

David Weir lives in Santa Fe.

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