Santa Fe Indian Market — A Gem of the Southwest

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There are few things in Santa Fe more exciting than the Santa Fe Indian Market, which occurs the third week in August annually.  It is the largest Native American fine art show in the world, and attracts thousands of visitors and art enthusiasts to Santa Fe, easily doubling the population of our city for the duration.  When you arrive in town, you can literally feel the “Indian Market buzz!”

Native American Dancer on San Francisco Street in the Heart of Santa Fe.

Produced by the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA), whose mission includes “bringing Native arts to the world,” the event has been taking place since 1922, and continues to grow and evolve with the times, but always showcases the best of the best Native artists, many of whom come from a long lineage of traditional arts and teaching.

The Indian Market artist application process requires strict adherence to industry standards and production guidelines that include use of genuine materials to ensure authenticity.  From collectors of fine Native American jewelry, painting, sculpture, pottery, basketry, and more, to visitors just coming for the experience, everyone agrees that Indian Market is one of the most stimulating and fun inter-tribal gatherings in the nation.

Blackfeet Painter Terrance Guardipee

During Indian Market, Santa Fe’s plentiful hotels book to capacity and the streets and restaurants fill up with the most wonderfully diverse collection of visitors from all over the world who want to experience authentic Native American arts and culture.  Santa Fe is sometimes referred to as an “international small town” and the Indian Market extravaganza is surely one of its crown jewels.

Each Indian Market artist is chosen in a rigorous and competitive juried selection process, which ensures that the quality of the market is world class.  Indian Market is considered to be the gold standard for excellence in Native American art and upholding that reputation has been the foundation of its success and longevity.  The market also features a prestigious “Best of Show” competition, which offers artists a chance to enter their most prized original pieces for judging by an expert panel.  The award-winners, from traditional to contemporary art, are always stunners and have launched many an emerging artist’s career, with eager buyers poised to purchase the items on the spot.

Native American Dancers Take a Selfie with Visitors

The visual beauty of Indian Market weekend is beyond compare.  The streets of downtown Santa Fe around the historic Plaza are blanketed with the display booths of close to one thousand Native American artists of all ages from federally recognized tribes throughout the U.S. and Canada.  From booth to booth, the volume and quality of the works of art are jaw-dropping and breathtaking.  One of the things visitors like best is that they can interact directly with the artists, whose work might normally be represented through a shop or gallery.  The personal dynamic of being able to ask questions of the artist about the history and origin of their work is a highly enriching experience.

Laguna Pueblo/Chirachaua Apache Jeweler/Metalsmith Pat Pruitt Talks to Art Collectors on the Plaza

It isn’t unusual for artist booths to be brimming with inventory that they have worked on all year, and then be sold out at the end of the market.  Some artists rely on Indian Market as their primary source of income.  It is a wonderful example of how cultural entrepreneurship and creative innovation continue to thrive and help to preserve Native American traditions.

Indian Market also has a strong contemporary component, which is featured as part of the kick-off to the market with a large and lively “Indian Market EDGE” opening party that previews some of the most talented contemporary artists in Indian Country.  National press and media attend to get a peek into who and what’s hot for the new year and to get a glimpse of newly unveiled works.  The market also features other exciting events such as the world-class Native Cinema Showcase, live music and dance performances, a Fine Art Gala and Auction, and the highly coveted Native American contemporary fashion and traditional clothing shows.  These are some of Santa Fe’s most photographed annual events, featuring cutting-edge designs and inspiring trends.

There are also several popular smaller markets that coincide with Indian Market, including  “The Zuni Show” that features the exceptional art and culture of Zuni Pueblo at the Scottish Rite Temple, and the “We are the Seeds” Native American arts market in the Santa Fe Railyard.

Native American Food Vendors offer Indian Tacos and Frito Pie

Finally, Indian Market just wouldn’t be complete without the ever-popular Native American food vendors that line the streets by the Santa Fe Community Convention Center and draw you in with smells of delightful Native American home-made foods.  You can choose from a wide variety of tantalizing traditional specialty items such as Indian Fry Bread Tacos, Frito Pies, fresh roasted corn on the cob, turkey legs, Pueblo stews, and so much more!

As you can see a visit during the Santa Fe Indian Market is filled with amazing cultural experiences, making your stay in The City Different even more memorable. Start planning your trip to Santa Fe by ordering the new 2017 Santa Fe Travel Guide. While Santa Fe holds many secrets to be discovered, we want to share with you all the Deals and Specials our Santa Fe businesses have to offer you.

This blog was written in partnership with TOURISM Santa Fe  and Rima Krisst, Tourism Santa Fe Tribal Liaison. (Rima Krisst photos)

View more beautiful photography from Indian Market in the slideshow below.

  • Navajo Jeweler Lyndon Tsosie

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