The bad news: This year’s in-real-life market was canceled due to the pandemic. The great news: You can shop the famed Santa Fe event online all August long.
OK, so you might not be standing in line for fry bread, but you can still support Native American artists and shop for their extraordinary wares online as the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts takes Santa Fe Indian Market virtual for the first time in its 99 years.
The news of the cancellation of this year’s in-person market due to the pandemic hit everyone hard, but SWAIA has rebounded with a robust collaboration with the Clark Hulings Fund and Artspan that will allow Native American artists to sell their artwork online during the month of August and beyond.
As executive director of SWAIA, Kimberly Peone (Colville Confederated Tribes/Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians) oversees all aspects of the market, from fundraising and selecting artists to marketing and public relations — and now managing the unprecedented virtual shopping event.
“Virtual Indian Market will feature hundreds of artists and will run the entire month of August,” Peone says. “Special tickets will be available for our silent auctions, special awards, and [SWAIA Virtual Fashion Show]. And I’ll host ‘Coffee With Kim,’ where we’re hoping to highlight some of our artists. The silver lining is that we are being forced to embrace change, trust the process, and hold on in unison for what comes next. We will forge onward with better ideas and better solutions, keeping in mind the need for sustainability.”
We talked with Peone about pulling it all off and what virtual visitors can look forward to.
Cowboys & Indians: How did the idea of Virtual Indian Market come together?
Kimberly Peone: The staff and board had already been vetting some options for Indian Market with the pandemic. Not having a “real-life” Indian Market forced a necessary pivot — otherwise the only other choice was going home. There is such potential in launching the first-ever Virtual Indian Market. Our organization is showing resilience, and that same resilience is seen in our artistic world!
C&I: How will it work?
Peone: Our vision is a comprehensive one, with many components. For example, the artists’ component includes personal websites owned by the artist. The artists manage their own websites with content, price, and shipping. The software has many features with the artist’s best interest in mind. SWAIA will provide a help desk, technology support, and guidance through the e-commerce piece. We are offering a digital campus to our artists for business planning and development.
C&I: And going forward?
Peone: This digital platform is meant to support artists year-round. SWAIA plans to continue branding and marketing strategies with our artists in mind. The virtual platform allows us to virtually share our dances, our artists, our creative works, our homes, and Santa Fe and all it has to offer. And it allows virtual visitors to participate from wherever they have an Internet connection. The digital experience will never capture the real thing, but it will allow us to remember, relive, and reimagine through Virtual Indian Market 2020.
C&I: This could be a real game-changer for the artists.
Peone: We want artists to come away with development strategies for their business models that support long-term planning and sustainability. We will be able to help artists with developing websites (owning their domain) and provide technical assistance, plus support and business development. This positions artists strategically and allows SWAIA to position for new market segments. Having virtual capabilities will give our organization the opportunity to be creative and hopefully a beacon for Native arts everywhere.
Artists will continue to sell and be featured through our Virtual Indian Market. Many of the components we are developing can be captured perpetually, and, with some innovation, we could be completely sustainable as an organization. That is the goal!
Virtual Indian Market is live now at swaia.org.
Virtual Fashion Show
Designer Orlando Dugi Struts the Virtual Runway
A hot-ticket highlight of Indian Market is always the SWAIA Fashion Show, and that will still be the case with this August’s Virtual Indian Market when designer Orlando Dugi takes the stage with SWAIA’s 2020 fashion film project. Dugi’s exquisite new line will debut virtually with a short film Sunday, August 16, during market weekend. Staged in an intimate fashion-show setting — with a limited audience in attendance during the filming of the show and for the actual live screening of the fashion film — the short film presents Dugi’s striking designs and provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse into his life and the crafting of his latest line. Special guests will be wearing their finest attire (and observing proper social-distancing practices). For virtual fashionistas, the online viewing of the film will be followed by a question and comment session with Dugi and the models.
For ticketing information on Virtual Indian Market and the SWAIA Virtual Fashion Show, visit swaia.org.
Photography: Images courtesy Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, Jason Ordaz for SWAIA
From our August/September 2020 issue.