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Army of Volunteers Backs International Folk Art Market

How do you organize an international event that attracts nearly 20,000 people with just five staff members and a limited budget? Well, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, they found the answer: invite an army of volunteers, organize them well and have a successful event that keeps growing every year. Producer Zulima Palacio has the story. Mil Arcega narrates it.

Welcome to the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This year was its fourth consecutive, with artists from 40 countries attracting nearly 20,000 visitors. Sales for the three-day event in July totaled more than $1 million.

Behind the market's success are all of those red T-shirts with "Volunteer" written across them.

Valerie Baugh is the coordinator for the volunteers. "Within the market there are five paid staff members and that's all, everybody else is a volunteer."

Volunteers recruit artists from around the world. They help fill out applications, resolve quality and design issues and offer assistance on how to show and price products. Many volunteers even open their homes to artists needing a place to stay. With their time and actions, volunteers have touched the lives of hundreds of families.

Judith Espinard was one of the founders of the International Folk Art Market. She is now its creative director. "I know now that the work of the world is in the hands of the individuals not the governments. This is our great hope and we want many more people to do this kind of work in whatever form they feel that they can contribute."

This year the International Folk Art Market had a small army of 720 volunteers, including 70 who work year around. Most are over 50, but this year there also were a number of younger volunteers. Many volunteers are former members of the Peace Corps, and some travel from across the United States to be in Santa Fe during the few days when the market takes place.

"We are trying to inspire organizations around the world that are working in economic and social development in the craft and folk art media to do similar markets," said Espinard.

The international market is fun and people from all backgrounds and ages enjoy it. Many volunteers return year after year.

Harriet Christian is one of them, and for the second straight year she brought her family with her. "I have gone home and told my family, my other daughter from San Antonio, I brought two grand daughters from Austin and they all worked here yesterday, all of them as volunteers. Five of us; and next year I may bring more people."

The International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe would not be possible without the volunteers, their time and sense of service. For many of these international folk artists the market and its army of volunteers have opened a new world of possibilities and income.