(Above) IFAM is the world’s largest, most diverse folk art festival to celebrate cherished craft traditions and contribute to global unity and economic change. (Below) 2017 Artist Manisha Mishra, from India. SC file photos by Dorothy Wallace
(Above) IFAM is the world’s largest, most diverse folk art festival to celebrate cherished craft traditions and contribute to global unity and economic change. (Below) 2017 Artist Manisha Mishra, from India. SC file photos by Dorothy Wallace

SANTA FE, N.M. —In July 2004, 61 master folk artists from 36 countries ventured to this high-desert city to share in a then untested proposition that creativity, prosperity and community wellbeing could be realized through the art of the handmade.

This July, that proposition—the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market—marks 15 years of art and impact as 150 folk artists from 50 countries gather at the world’s largest, most diverse folk art festival to celebrate cherished craft traditions and contribute to global unity and economic change.

The 2018 Market, July 13-15 at Museum Hill, is an event the world’s art and culture lovers won’t want to miss as 34 first-time artists join 116 returning artists, and two countries never before represented at the Market—Azerbaijan and Greece—step onto the global folk art stage. Twenty-eight artists will again provide Innovation Inspiration in a special exhibition area, translating traditional folk art materials and techniques into works of modern meaning.

Collectively, these creators’ eye-dazzling forms, textures and designs—textiles, jewelry, beadwork, basketry, sculpture, ceramics, rugs, metal work, clothing, home accessories and more—blur borders in colorful displays of cultural dignity, beauty and hope.

Serving as Honorary Market Chair on this 15th anniversary milestone is Dr. Muhammad Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. As a leader and believer in creating economic change for impoverished communities through social innovation and entrepreneurship, Yunus’ participation pays tribute to the Market’s influence and impact as a global change maker.

Since its inception, the Market has shaped an extraordinary story of art and impact by hosting nearly 1,000 master folk artists from 98 countries and generating $28 million from artists sales (of which 90 percent goes home with first-time artists), as well as impacting more than 1.2 million lives worldwide and drawing 233,000 Market attendees with an estimated economic impact of $142 million.

Even as the numbers continue to change, the Market’s belief in the power of folk artists as cultural ambassadors whose creations provide common ground in an increasingly polarized would remains the same. Perhaps the biggest believers are Market artists. Many come from developing countries where the daily income averages less than $3.10 per day.

For them, three days in Santa Fe both affirms the value of their artistry and affords vital resources for education, infrastructure and medicine for their families and communities. It provides the means to help fight political dislocation, gender inequity, and other forms of social and economic depression.

The interactions we have are what makes the Market so special,” says folk aritst Zoe Davidson, Tintsaba, Swaziland. “Learning and helping each other is the best way for the industry to grow and to make an ever greater positive impact for all artisans everywhere.”

For all the Market artists, Santa Fe has become a destination for global connection and artistic excellence. For the some 20,000 annual Market attendees, the experience of encountering artists and art from worlds away offers powerful and positive lessons in the value of multicultural, person-to-person exchange.

I loved being an ambassador for Lao and sharing my culture and textiles with people from around the world,” said Mrs. Panee Khounviley, of Ock Pop Tok. “I realized that I am a part of a bigger community of folk artists around the world.”