What is the SWAIA Market?

What, when, and how to participate in 2021
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Explore a century of Native Culture

Models in a past SWAIA Fashion Showcase.
Models onstage at a past SWAIA Fashion Showcase
Derivative of image by Larry Lamsa

What is the SWAIA Market?

The Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) Market (sometimes called the Santa Fe Market) began as a small festival to showcase Native artists, became a tradition, then morphed into a phenomenon. For two days, Santa Fe’s historic central Plaza and many surrounding streets are blocked off and immediately covered with artists, performers, and foot traffic from around the world.

The event brings attracts 150,000 visitors to Santa Fe from all over the world1 and $160 million in revenues to the region, likely far more. Those numbers don’t take into account all the related events in the two weeks leading up to the Market—or the concurrent events at the surrounding galleries and businesses after the official schedule ends.2

The History of SWAIA Market

The market was originally a very small event with “maybe a dozen artists”3 and a big goal: creating a space for the revitalization of Native crafts and artwork and appreciation for Native art as it had been “before its transformation by non-Native cultures into curios and souvenirs.”4

The event was originally part of the Museum of New Mexico’s Santa Fe Fiesta celebration in 1922, mixing art competitions and exhibits with demonstrations of Native music and dance. Eventually, the Market moved outdoors and changed hands, moving under the control of the New Mexico Association on Indian Affairs (the organization that would eventually become SWAIA).

Bolstered by a surge in interest in American Indian culture during the 1960s, the Market grew into its own independent event. What was a loosely organized exhibition and artist competition became something closer to what visitors will be greeted by today, with rows of artists booths that seemed to mushroom in quantity with each year. The supervising organization officially became the Southwest Association of Indian Arts (SWAIA) in 19935 and by 2017, over 1,000 artists representing more than 100 tribes filled the market.6

What to Expect Visiting the Market Today

Today’s SWAIA market brings over 1,100 Native artists from the United States and Canada to sell their artwork and it is currently the largest and the most prestigious juried Native arts show in the world.7 The almost 100-year-old market is also the biggest cultural event in the southwest, bringing in visitors and collectors from all over the world to buy directly from Native artists.  

“Our travelers come from all over the world, as far as Japan, I’ve had a couple visitors from England come talk to me today,” 2018 SWAIA Director Ira Wilson told CATV, “they come from all over the place. Meet the artists, get to know the artists, talk to the artists, they’re wonderful people. They have wonderful stories about their art, that’s the best part about purchasing it, because you get to buy directly from the artist.”8

The goods and events at the market today are a fusion of traditional and modern. Some stay very close to their traditional roots, often using techniques perfected by family members and passed down. Others reinvent traditional crafts with new materials or imagery. Wares vary widely, including pottery, baskets, textiles, silverwork, beadwork, sculpture, and paintings. Native performers are scheduled throughout the day, while larger events require additional tickets due to space restrictions and demand.

How to Attend

Tickets

This year’s Market is set for August 21-22. Tickets are required for entry, available now on SWAIA.org. Discounts are available for students and tribal members. General Admission tickets cover the market itself and many open-air events, including music and dance performances.

Some special events do require an additional event-only ticket- make sure you check your schedule! If you have your heart set on attending the Market Preview, Best in Show, Fashion Show, or Gala they all require their own separate ticket.

The decision to move to a ticket system instead of the open entry of previous years was primarily driven by the global pandemic that shut down last year’s market:

“SWAIA decided to sell tickets this year to help gather contact tracing information and crowd control as a part of its Covid Safe Protocols (CSP). The ticketing was intended to allow SWAIA artists and visitors to stay within the state’s mass gathering mandates that existed at the time of planning and coincide with occupancy calculations.

Tickets will be scanned and visitors will be given a corresponding wristband at the gates. Visitors may leave and return during the times designated by their wristbands. Wristbands are required for re-entry and are non-transferrable.9

COVID Restrictions

Masks, social distancing, and other Covid Safe Practices will be in place in alignment with the CDC and the State of New Mexico at the time of the event. For more information, please visit the 2021 FAQ Page and check the SWAIA News page for the latest updates.

Questions?

A dancer performs at SWAIA
Derivative of image by Larry Lamsa

Online Events and Programming

If you are unable to make the trip to the market this year you can still participate! Organizers are working to maintain and expand their online programming from last year’s virtual market to make the market more accessible for everyone. SWAIA has a virtual version of the market, access to last year’s streaming content, and live streaming options. 

Vision Maker Media and other Native organizations are also providing free online content. See below for details!

New Mexico is More Than Desert

(Vision Maker Media)

Join Vision Maker Media from August 19-22 for a weekend of free online streaming featuring six Native American films from the southwest region of the United States. Explore the histories and identities of the southwest tribes through themes of activism, traditions, women’s empowerment, history, and health & wellness.

SWAIA MEDIA

Live from the 2021 Market

[Stream links etc here]

Featured Content

Coffee with Kim Banner
Banner from SWAIA.org
Executive Director Kimberly Peone speaks with various SWAIA artists about their personal stories, creative process, and art mediums.
2020 SWAIA Virtual Fashion Show
Screenshot from SWAIA.org
View past SWAIA Fashion Shows, including the 2020 Virtual Fashion Show.
NDN World Banner
Screenshot from SWAIA.org
NDN World is a virtual reality version of the SWAIA Market. View exhibits, talk, dance, and more in groups or alone!
Conversations

Roundtable discussions, interviews, and podcasts

Featured Artists

View this year’s featured SWAIA Artists

Online Exhibition

View the current online art exhibition

Connect with SWAIA
Artist at SWAIA in traditional clothing.
Artist at SWAIA in traditional clothing
Derivative of image by Larry Lamsa

Schedule of Events

(In-person)

  1. Southwest Association for Indian Arts. (2021, July 5). 2021 Market FAQ. Santa Fe Indian Market. https://swaia.org/market-faq/.
  2. Southwest Association for Indian Arts. (2020, August 12). About SWAIA. Santa Fe Indian Market. https://swaia.org/about-swaia/.
  3. Santa Fe Indian Market. (2017). About Swaia/Santa Fe Indian Market. YouTube. https://youtu.be/qWgZR6CZWyA.
  4. Southwest Association for Indian Arts. (2020, August 12). About SWAIA. Santa Fe Indian Market. https://swaia.org/about-swaia/.
  5. Southwest Association for Indian Arts. (2020, August 12). About SWAIA. Santa Fe Indian Market. https://swaia.org/about-swaia/.
  6. Tourism Santa Fe. (n.d.). TOURISM Santa Fe Indian Market. SantaFe.org. https://www.santafe.org/shopping/shopping-around-town/markets/indian-market/.
  7. Southwest Association for Indian Arts. (2021, July 5). 2021 Market FAQ. Santa Fe Indian Market. https://swaia.org/market-faq/.
  8. Cheyenne and Arapaho Television. (2018). Catv “Indian Road” From 2018 Santa Fe Indian Market. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6K7uvOcEtfQ. Note: The current SWAIA Executive Director is Kim Peone (Colville Confederated Tribes / Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians)
  9. Southwest Association for Indian Arts. (2021, July 5). 2021 Market FAQ. Santa Fe Indian Market. https://swaia.org/market-faq/.

The images and screenshots in this article from the SWAIA Media section were taken directly from SWAIA.org, with no modifications made.

The below images in this article were created by modifying photos by Larry Lamsa as displayed on Flickr (Licensed under CC BY 4.0)

Individual Image Attributions and modification notices:

Cover: Derivative of  “Santa Fe Indian Market: Tourist – Close Up”] © Larry Lamsa as displayed on Flickr.com (Licensed under CC BY 4.0)

Image 1: Derivative of “Santa Fe Indian Market: Fashion Contest aka Native American Clothing Contest” © Larry Lamsa as displayed on Flickr.com (Licensed under CC BY 4.0)

Image 2 & Search Thumbnail Image: Derivative of  “Santa Fe Indian Market: Eagle Dancer” © Larry Lamsa as displayed on Flickr.com (Licensed under CC BY 4.0)

Image 3: Derivative of  “Santa Fe Indian Market: Artist” ©  Larry Lamsa as displayed on Flickr.com (Licensed under CC BY 4.0)

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