9 Must Have Experiences at Santa Fe Indian Market

Every August, artists from around North America descend on the historic Santa Fe Plaza for the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market, the largest and most prestigious Native American fine art show in the world. There is no arguing that the seemingly endless booths of world-renowned artisans are the main draw, but there is far more going on than just great shopping! Find yourself a handmade treasure to take home, but don’t miss these 9 ways to enjoy a truly authentic Indian Market experience.

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Santa Fe Indian Market

Santa Fe Indian Market

1. The Art

It comes as no surprise that the true stars of the event are the artists themselves. Artists from more than 220 tribes are in attendance, so the entire gamut of North American tribal art is represented. To ensure that all pieces sold are of high quality, all participants adhere to strict guidelines on production and materials. As a result, you will find most any genre of art you can imagine; handmade pottery, basketry, jewelry, painting, sculpture, carvings, clothing, accessories and contemporary pieces from Native artists.


Native Hoop Dancer performs at Indian Market

2. Indian Market Kick Off Party

Taking place Thursday night at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center, this party signals the official kick-off to the Indian Market celebrations. This all-ages bash includes a performance by indigenous hip-hop group LightningCloud, live DJs and a sneak preview of the IM: EDGE Contemporary Show.  The event is free and open to the public.


The Native Cinema Showcase celebrate Native filmmakers

3. Native Cinema Showcase

Heading into its 18th year, the Native Cinema Showcase has become a staple of the Indian Market experience. Produced in partnership with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, this festival showcases the contributions of Native filmmakers. A highlight of the 2018 festival will be Friday’s Family Night at the Railyard Park, a free showing of Disney’s “Coco.” Families are encouraged to bring chairs/blankets to enjoy the show from the park’s lush lawn.


4. Native American Clothing Contest and Fashion Show

Two of the most anticipated events of Indian Market center around Native American clothing; the time-honored Native American Clothing Contest, where contestants model their finest traditional attire and regalia, and the contemporary Indian Market Haute Couture Fashion Show, which showcases cutting-edge collections of some of Native America’s most talented and sought-after fashion designers. The clothing contest takes place on the Plaza on Sunday morning and is free and open to the public. The Fashion Show takes place that afternoon and is a ticketed event.


5. Fine Art Gala & Auction

The most glamorous of all the events, the Fine Art Gala & Auction is your chance to bid on some of the most sought after pieces of the market.  The Saturday night event begins with a silent auction and cocktail reception at the La Fonda on the Plaza’s La Terraza. Following the reception, guests are invited to take part in the live auction and dinner. This is one of the more difficult tickets of the Market, so be sure to purchase early!


IM:EDGE Contemporary gallery-style show

6. IM: EDGE

Focusing on contemporary Indigenous artists exploring modern social topics, the IM: EDGE exhibit offers a modern counterpoint to the traditional artistic techniques often associated with the Market. Housed in the Santa Fe Convention Center, the exhibition is free to the public daily throughout the Market weekend. This curated, contemporary gallery-type show and sale is sponsored annually by JoAnn and Bob Balzer.


Native American Dancers Take a Selfie with Visitors

7. Music & Dance Performances

There is nothing that sets the mood for the Market like the live music and dance performances around each corner. Find schedules posted around downtown if you are looking for a particular group or just drop and enjoy.


Native American Food Vendors offer Indian Tacos and Frito Pie

8. Food Vendors

Obviously, any visit to Indian Market would not be complete without sampling some of the amazing food. Enjoy a variety of traditional specialties such as Indian Fry Bread, Frito Pies, roasted corn on the cob and more!


Community Mural Wall at “We Are The Seeds”

9. Other Markets and Shows

Naturally, the allure of Santa Fe Indian Market also attracts several smaller, independent markets. The “We are the Seeds” Native Arts Market at the Railyard and the Free Indian Market Show at the Scottish Rite Temple are just a couple of the smaller markets where you just might score an incredible deal on a piece of art. Additionally, many galleries downtown will be having special exhibits and pop-up style shows.


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