The International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe opens tomorrow and our founder, Polly Leonard, will be attending. Earlier this year, Polly interviewed Keith Recker, the creative director of IFAM:
Did Santa Fe make the Folk Art Market or did the Folk Art Market make Santa Fe? Can you tell me a little about the atmosphere, the people and zeitgeist in this region before 2003 when IFAM started?
It’s not just the landscape that brings people here. Culture, that big, broad, hard-to-pin-down notion, remains at the heart of this part of the world. Cultural exchange – bigger, broader, and even harder to pin down – is even more essential, because it is in the meeting of cultures that the distinctive identity of the region is forged. Since all of Santa Fe’s layers are alive, and because they not only coexist but engage with each other, there is a gorgeous and constant curiosity here. There’s a strong emphasis on tradition, but creativity can’t help but embellish and differentiate against that background.
2003, the year both Selvedge and Folk Art Market were born, was a significant point in history. What part do you think timing has played in the success of the IFAM?
In many ways, the global connectivity brought to us through 21st century technology has given us a hunger for context, experience, and relationship. The internet makes us ‘neighbours’ with people in Bamako, Boston, and Bernalillo – and we want to get to know these new neighbours. Our human longing for relationship, for intimacy, isn’t satisfied with mere information: we need face to face contact. We need to see and touch and understand Uzbek silk velvet, handspun Argentinian vicuña, and cruelty-free Indian silk so that we get a personal sense of our new neighbours’ cultures. In turn, we want to be good neighbours, too, by voicing our admiration and by supporting their businesses.
It is inevitable that an event of this scale owes a huge debt to the energy and tenacity of its founders. But equally important is its ability to let go and allow whatever one has created to take on its own life. Can you tell me a little about how it all began and what are your plans for the future?
At 15, IFAM is, as you suggest, different from what it was at age three, five, or even ten. It remains completely devoted to finding and showing the finest folk artists possible – a priority maintained by the two-jury system that reviews all artist applicants. IFAM also remains an artist-centered organisation, and we can’t see anything we do as successful unless it brings success to our artist family. We also continue a tradition of beautiful, fulsome hospitality to both artists and customers, expressed in decor, music, food, and fun.
What’s changed? A new openness to artists working from roots in traditional folk art, but pushing the boundaries a bit through the inclusion of design, addressing issues of sustainability, and recording lives as they are being lived today. This openness comes out of a healthy respect for the artists themselves: it is they who choose how to deploy their cultural assets. This openness has brought younger voices into the artist family as well as expanded exploration of apparel, or replenishable and recycled materials, and of work that documents the modern lives of traditional communities.