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The Santa Fe International Folk Art Market Showcases Extraordinary Art with Extraordinary Stories
Handmade basket created by both Hutu and Tutsi women in Rwanda.

SANTA FE, N.M.- When more than 150 of the world’s finest traditional artists travel from the farthest corners of the globe to participate in the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market this July, some will arrive as widely celebrated cultural artists, while others will be leaving their villages and boarding planes for the very first time. Many will be coming from developing countries where the average income is less than $3 a day and where overwhelming political, social, and environmental challenges can make everyday life—not to mention the creation of art—a struggle. All artists will be taking part in an extraordinary event that not only showcases their work but helps change their lives and their communities.

The largest event of its kind in the world, the Market offers an unparalleled chance to collect treasures from around the globe and meet the artists who created them. Last year, more than 22,000 people attended, along with 132 artists from 50 countries. Mingling with the visitors and local market goers were dignitaries from Cuba, Oman and South Africa; representatives from Donna Karan, Martha Stewart, and Yves Saint Laurent, as well as representatives of the Clinton Foundation and UNESCO, both of which have partnered with the Market.

Shopping at the Market is shopping that clearly makes a difference—it helps many artists raise themselves and their communities out of poverty, and it helps preserve critical cultural traditions. Last year’s Market generated more than $2 million in sales, 90 percent of which went home with the artists. This means that, in a remote village in Pakistan, the Lila Handicraft women’s collective was able to use the money made by selling its patterned ralli quilts to build a new school. An embroidery group in Afghanistan, Kandahar Treasures, was able to rescue women begging on the streets and teach them traditional needlework to support themselves. In Rwanda, Janet Nkubana was able to continue the work of her cooperative, which features Hutus and Tutsis coming together to weave “peace baskets”. She also earned enough to buy mosquito nets to curb the spread of malaria and build new vegetable gardens for the local community.

Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who spoke during the 2010 Market week festivities, says of the Market’s ability to help women in developing countries through support of their artistic enterprises: “This is a very, very healthy way to chip away at poverty globally… It is an asset of the International Folk Art Market that I greatly admire.”

Art that’s Exceptional, Art that’s Real, Art that Offers Hope

“People want what is real,” says Judith Espinar, co-founder and creative director of the Market. “And this is the only place in the world where you will find so many authentic works and artists in one place at one time. The artists are tradition bearers because they are keeping the beauty, vitality, and cultural values of their homelands alive through their art. In a world where things often feel so manufactured, the Market is the real thing.”

The 2011 Market will feature more than 70 new participants including artists from Cambodia and Algeria. Many popular artists will be returning, including papier-mâché artists from Haiti, exquisite embroidery artists from India, jewelers from Niger, felters from Kyrgyzstan, and rug weavers from Uzbekistan. Along with booths filled with wonderful art, visitors can enjoy exotic food and live entertainment ranging from Latinrock to whirling dervishes from Turkey to the music and dance of Senegal. It’s a readily affordable weekend of global experiences and connections.

Another fascinating aspect of the Market is the unlikely coupling of cultures: Israelis and Pakistanis; Kyrgyzstani and Uzbeks; Tibetans and Chinese. All of these artists find common ground in their work and their dreams for the future. They share meals and together take workshops on how best to develop their businesses for the global marketplace.

“It sounds cliché but I hear it all the time—that the Market is liked a mini United Nations,” says Charlene Cerny, executive director of the Market. “For both the artists and the market goers, these face-to-face encounters create a kind of hopeful magic. Art has always transcended conflict. It gives me hope for a troubled world.”

Takes Place July 8-10, 2011

Santa Fe International Folk Art Market | Judith Espinar | Charlene Cerny |

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