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SANTE FE — More than 900 American Indian artists from the United States and Canada submitted more than 1500 pieces of art for juried competition in the 101st Santa Fe Indian Market.

The Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) organizes the world’s largest Indian arts and crafts market where enrolled members of state and federally recognized tribes compete in 242 categories of American Indian fine and traditional art.

Artists are allowed to submit up to three pieces in the juried competition, where their submissions are categorized in 242 categories, 197 adult and 45 youth, including traditional textiles, pottery, quillwork, beadwork, 2D and 3D art, jewelry, moccasins, basket weaving and many more arts and crafts categories. Artists are permitted to compete in more than one category, but not with the same piece, and are allowed to collaborate with other artists so long as it does not surpass three total entries. 

The Southwestern Association of Indian Arts officially received more than 1500 American Indian traditional and fine art submissions for the 101st Santa Fe Indian Market on Wednesday for juried competition in 242 separate categories. (photo by Darren Thompson for Native News Online)

The juried competition is conducted the day after SWAIA receives artist submissions and is not open to artists or to the public. Judges are chosen by organization staff, who are experts or leaders in their craft and are trained to survey and review each piece of art in the category they are judging in. They then select prize winners in each Category, Division, Classification and Best of Show, which comes with a $15,000 cash prize. Judging is recorded and judges are not permitted to bring their personal phones or cameras into judging. 

There are three judges in each specific classification area, including jewelry, pottery, two-dimensional art forms including paintings, drawings, graphics and photography, wooded Pueblo figurative carvings, Youth in three separate divisions—9 years and under, 10 years old to 13 years old, and 14 years old to 17 years old, textiles, diverse arts forms, beadwork and quillwork, and basketry. 

“It was super heartwarming and made me feel so grateful that the artists were here with smiles and ready to submit their pieces,” said Mona Perea, one SWAIA’s Artist Services coordinators, to Native News Online. “Our volunteers are the golden piece in the SWAIA team. Kuu daa woh ha for your trust and dedication. All love, Team SWAIA!”

In the beadwork and quillwork category, judges will evaluate the source and quality of materials used, as well as the combination of form, design, and technique. Beadwork and quillwork are separated into traditional and contemporary categories. Plastic and synthetic materials are not allowed in the making of the item unless the item is used, historical, or traditional accuracy. All categories require full submission of materials used to make the item, including if something was acquired commercially or produced traditionally. 

Some submissions are not accepted though and while there isn’t an official count, some cannot be accepted for a variety of reasons, including if something is already manufactured, like a vehicle. 

Many people volunteer their time, including judges in the juried art competition. The historic Indian market attracts crowds well above 100,000 people to celebrate American Indian culture and art as well as meet the artists. Art submissions often take months to make, and some of them years. Many volunteers have been participating in the Santa Fe Indian Market for decades and share that each year, submissions surpass expectations and can often become challenging to categorize because they incorporate multiple art forms. 

“We could not pull off Santa Fe Indian Market without all of our volunteers,” said SWAIA Executive Director Jamie Schulze at Wednesday’s reception at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. 

Robert Martinez, a painter from the Wind River Indian Reservation, submitted a painting and a ledger drawing in the art competition and said he hopes to win for the weekend, but said the one thing he is looking forward to the most is visiting all the other artists and people. This is Martinez’s 12th year showcasing at the Santa Fe Indian Market. 

“I hope all the artists have a great weekend and sell a lot of their work,” Martinez said of his hopes for the weekend. 

Jonathan R. Beno, a Navajo silversmith and fine artist from Albuquerque, submitted an oil painting for the two-dimensional category. This is Beno’s first time as an artist in the Santa Fe Indian Market. The one thing he looks forward to the most is seeing all the other art. 

Juliana Romano, SWAIA’s Membership and Volunteer Coordinator, said to Native News Online all of the volunteers were excited to participate in the day's events. “We are all thrilled with receiving today's art, and our volunteers, judges, runners, leaders, and organizers are looking forward to an exciting 101st Santa Fe Indian Market,” she said.

The Santa Fe Indian Market is scheduled to take place on Saturday, August 19 through Sunday, August 20 at the Santa Fe Plaza in downtown Santa Fe. The 101st Santa Fe Indian Market Best of Show Ceremony is on Friday, August 18 at 11:30 am at the Santa Fe Community Civic Center. 

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About The Author
Author: Darren ThompsonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Darren Thompson (Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe) is a staff reporter for Native News Online who is based in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Thompson has reported on political unrest, tribal sovereignty, and Indigenous issues for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Indian Country Today, Native News Online, Powwows.com and Unicorn Riot. He has contributed to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Voice of America on various Indigenous issues in international conversation. He has a bachelor’s degree in Criminology & Law Studies from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.