Santa Fe's summer market season begins the second weekend in July, when more than 150 artisans from over 60 counties set up shop at the annual Santa Fe International Folk Art Market.
Museum Hill, home to four of Santa Fe’s museums and the Santa Fe Botanical Garden, is the site for this massive market, the largest of its kind in the world. Cars are banned from this narrow road during the market, but it’s a fast, free shuttle ride from either the PERA parking lot on Old Santa Fe Trail (at Paseo de Peralta) or the South Capital Rail Runner Station on Cordova Road southeast of Cerrillos Road.
Get off the bus, walk through the colorful arched gate and enter a foreign world. If you feel like you’re traveling in an exotic land, it’s because you are.
A Peruvian artisan with her handiwork at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market — Photo courtesy of Steve Collins
The huge tents are lined with vendors. A colorful array of beautiful folk art from diverse places greets you. Walk the aisles; talk to the vendors. Ask them questions about their craft or even their homeland. If they don’t speak English, there will most likely be an interpreter nearby.
There is so much here you’ll need a strategy to take it all in. Amble through the market once, noting booths that catch your eye, and then go back. You can’t buy it all, so you’ll have to make choices.
Entrance at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market — Photo courtesy of Steve Collins
Do you want that beautiful hand-embroidered top from Mexico or that incredibly stitched jacket from Uzbekistan? Would that amazing Wounaan basket from Panama or a less expensive one from South Africa look better on your living room shelf? Which would look better on that little black dress- the chunky bead necklace from Taiwan or the silver one from Spain?
What hand-woven rug will look better on your bedroom floor? When you’ve indulged yourself enough, do a bit of shopping for some unique early holiday gifts.
A weaver demonstrates her art at the Fok Art Market — Photo courtesy of Steve Collins
The Folk Art Market has been providing a needed financial boost to participating artisans since 2004. Many come from places where they earn as little as $3 a day. Money made here goes a long way.
A 38-year-old grandmother from a remote village in Madagascar made enough at market to provide basic electricity and water for her village. Maasai beaders from Kenya were able to buy chickens to feed villagers during a terrible drought. A silversmith from Niger earned enough to buy enough food to feed over 500 people for three months. And, you get to take home beautiful, handmade treasures. Everyone wins!
Colorful pottery at the Folk Art Market — Photo courtesy of Steve Collins
The event kicks off with a festive benefit preview on Friday evening. Saturday morning brings Early Bird shopping starting at 7:30 a.m. Gates open for general admission at 9 a.m. The market then opens to the general public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.
Sunday is Family Day. Bring the kids (Their admission is free.). Get them a “passport” at the gate to get them involved in the market. They can take it from booth to booth, talk to the artisans and get it stamped with a flag from the artist’s nation. They can also talk to the artists and learn a bit about the countries they come from.
The International Folk Art Market calls to collectors and folk art lovers from around the world. Come see what all the fuss is about; if not this year, put it on your calendar for next year or even the one after that. The Santa Fe International Folk Art Market is here to stay.