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Santa Fe International Folk Art Market Transforms Lives, Communities

Home to more than 200 art galleries, Santa Fe, New Mexico, is a popular destination for serious collectors. In recent years, collectors of folk art have flocked to Santa Fe in July for the annual International Folk Art Market. VOA's Susan Logue was there this year [July 14-15].

Baskets from South Africa and Panama, ceramics from Poland and Afghanistan, textiles from India and China and other expressions of folk art from around the world brought more than 17,000 buyers to the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market.

In just four years, the market has gained a reputation not only among buyers, but among artists and sellers as well. This year, artists from more than 40 countries were represented.

"When you mention the name Santa Fe Folk Art Festival, everybody knows about it," says Rangina Hamidi, who came to sell embroidery work made by women in Kandahar, Afghanistan. "The art that the women of Kandahar have is unknown to the world. It's never gotten any attention from the art world. I really want to put it on that platform and at the same time make money for the women so they can improve their lives."

Mathapelo Ngaka knows from experience that the Santa Fe Folk Art Market has that power. She came from South Africa for a third straight year to sell beaded animals that she and other artists make. "To come here to Santa Fe, it's very important, because the sales we make here, just improve our lives."

The market has also improved the lives of the indigenous lace makers in Brazil that Ilma Paixao represents. "I believe if it were not for the folk art market we would not exist today."

The women who make the blouses she has sold in Santa Fe for the last three years were making $3.00 to $9.00 a month. Now she says, "if each family has at least one lace maker and sells one shirt for $280, that family will be able to make $100 a month."

The cashier rings a customer’s item, "And your total is $105.72."

Sales at the International Folk Art Market this year totaled more than $1 million, with 93 percent going to the artists and their organizations.

"Often what they earn here in one weekend's time is the equivalent to what they might make in an entire year in their home countries" says, Joyce Ice, director of Santa Fe's Museum of International Folk Art, which sponsors the market.

The primary goal is to provide the artists and their communities with economic sustainability, but Ice says there is another aspect of the market that is just as important. "I think it is important that we see the market as not only a place to buy. I think in many ways this is a miniature United Nations, where people can come together and find they have a lot in common."

More photos of 2007 Santa Fe International Folk Art Market