Last month, the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) announced that this year’s Indian Market, the largest and most important Native arts market in the United States, would be postponed until 2021 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In this new series, we asked curators and members of the Native arts community to spotlight five artists whose work they were looking forward to seeing at the 2020 Indian Market, with the hope that this can play a small part in making up for some of the exposure lost from the postponement of this year’s market. Our goal is to highlight Native artists who have continued to make important work amid these trying times. You can find the spotlights collected here.
Instead of five artists, Andrea Hanley (Navajo), chief curator at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in Santa Fe, chose to share five moments that define Indian Market for her. Hanley serves on the board of SWAIA and the Santa Fe Arts Commission.
A first look at the rising stars of Native film
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian partners each year with SWAIA for the Native Cinema Showcase, bringing the best in Native films, filmmakers, and actors to Indian Market. It is always impressive to see the next big Native film or filmmaker. It is not uncommon to see movie stars, and it’s always a treat to see Oscar award winner Wes Studi (Cherokee), or actor (and Jim Jarmusch favorite) Gary Farmer (Haudenosaunee/Iroquois) walking through the streets. In 2019, I was able to see two incredible films which have since seen wide acclaim, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers (Blackfoot, Kainai First Nation (Blood Reserve)/Sámi) and Kathleen Hepburn’s The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open (available on Netflix and Hulu), and Jeff Barnaby’s (Mi’kmaq) Blood Quantum (available on Shudder and Amazon Prime). —AH
Steve Darden, a Diné/Navajo ceremonial leader, and traditional regalia maker who creates works like peyote fans, makes a fuss every year over his collectors and friends. It is heartwarming to see Mr. Darden at his booth, treating everyone like family. Yearly, he pulls me aside, among the hundreds of people walking past his booth, and blesses me in the Navajo way, with a prayer to protect me and give overall balance and healing. Mr. Darden is one of many Indian Market artists whose welcoming spirit make those who attend feel special and appreciated. The Indian Market provides space and opportunities for Native artists to have a voice, be motivated, be inventive, and to experiment, often leading to cultural healing and promoting broader social change. —AH
Hearing from thought leaders of the field
Seeing and hearing great Native American art heroes is an important aspect of the market. There are panel discussions and talks led by curators, artists, creatives, and internationally renowned contributors. Hearing the great Autry Museum of the American West president, W. Richard West, Jr. (Cheyenne Arapaho Nation), discuss the state of museums, or Navajo Poet Laureate Luci Tapahonso speak, or see filmmakers like Sterlin Harjo (Seminole/Creek) is vital. As an example, last year I moderated a panel supported by the Native Arts and Culture Foundation called “Native Women on Art, Culture, and Resilience,” celebrating the leadership of Native women in the arts to a sold out audience of over 250 people. It featured artists like Cara Romero (Chemehuevi), Rose Simpson (Santa Clara Pueblo), and Jaclyn Roessel (Navajo). The Indian Market supports those whose work resonates with audiences and ultimately leads to more possibilities to present their voice, research, and work in other settings and institutions. —AH
This year would have been the Indian Market’s seventh annual Haute Couture Fashion Show, produced by art historian and curator Amber Dawn Bear Robe (Siksika Nation). Six hundred seats and 100 standing room spots sell out well before the event, where renowned Indigenous designers like Project Runway’s Patricia Michaels (Taos Pueblo), Jamie Okuma (Luiseño/Shoshone-Bannock/Okinawan/Hawaiian), Catherine Blackburn (English River First Nation), and Decontie and Brown (Penobscot) create original Native fashion-forward designed clothing, jewelry, and accessories. Progressive in the way it presents fashion, it also reflects the style and thoughts of contemporary Indigenous people and is one of the most important cultural moments of the year. —AH
Friends, family, and colleagues
Lastly, I’ll miss the community. I’ll miss seeing family, friends, and colleagues from around the country, staff from the National Museum of the American Indian, the Philbrook Museum, the Peabody Essex Museum, the Eiteljorg Museum, and the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, just to name just a few. Members of my family come from all over the Navajo Nation and beyond. Seeing old friends, enjoying the camaraderie of my colleagues, the conversations, the debates, the hugs, the gossip, and even the sunburn and my tired feet; these will all be missed. Everyone should experience the Santa Fe Indian Market at least once in their lifetime, and I look forward to when we can gather again. The first absence of Indian Market in nearly a century will leave a void in our minds and hearts. —AH