Indigenous Inspiration

Indigenous Inspiration

Celebrate a century of Native art at Indian Market and related exhibition

By Brandon Brown

Time flies! This August, Santa Fe and its surrounding communities celebrate 100 years of Indian Market and the vital cultural exchange that it represents. 

Each year, more than 100,000 people attend this remarkable event, which surrounds the Santa Fe Plaza and adjacent streets and sponsors over 1,000 Native artists from more than 200 tribal communities in North America and Canada. Santa Fe’s Indian Market has grown into the largest juried Native American art show in the world, generating an estimated $160 million for Native artists and the local economy. 

And while families have long gathered in the streets of Santa Fe during this electric time, this year is shaping up to be one of its best years yet for young visitors. 

This year’s celebration is not limited to Santa Fe’s streets. Just around the corner from the Plaza, New Mexico History Museum (NMHM) and the Southwestern Association of Indian Arts (SWAIA) will join the festivities with “Honoring Tradition and Innovation,” a special exhibition at the museum commemorating the 100 years of Santa Fe’s Indian Market. Opening on Aug. 7, two weekends before this year’s Indian Market kicks off on Aug. 20, the exhibition aims to offer both a historical retrospective on the Market and educational, fun activities for visitors.

“Honoring Tradition and Innovation” traces the history of this important market and explores the ongoing impact of U.S. Indian policies on the Native American art world over the last century. Many of the artists, collectors and volunteers who continue to make it happen will also be acknowledged for their contributions

The exhibition will fill a 3,000-square-foot space on the second floor of NMHM with spectacular examples of Native American art and Indian Market history. More than 200 examples of works by Indian Market artists have gathered from 26 different lenders. Historic and contemporary photographs will also be on display, as well as videos of interviews with artists and collectors. 

Kids (and their parents) will also be able to have some fun with the history. Bingo cards available at the entrance to the exhibition will feature many of the animals and insects that appear in the works on display. These animals and insects inhabit an important place in the spiritual beliefs of the Native American cultures represented in the exhibition and frequently appear in their art. There are frogs, birds, water bugs, horses, dogs and more, and they appear most in the sculptures, pottery and jewelry on display. 

Capturing the full breadth of 100 years of Indian Market and the community of artists in its orbit is no small feat. To be as inclusive of as many artists as possible, a portrait wall of award-winning artists will also be included in the space.

And, it isn’t only adult artists whose stories will be told. Just as Indian Market dedicates space to children’s art, “Honoring Tradition and Innovation” will extend its focus to younger generations of artists who follow in the footsteps of their families and mentors. Young Indian Market participants will have their own wall of images, displayed with a case of artworks by young artists. The art featured in the exhibition’s Indian Market Youth section include a drawing by Jasmine Garcia from 2013, tiles and a pottery bowl by Dylan Coriz from 2015 and 2018, a painting by Jalen Martinez from 2017, and clay figures by Angeline Paulita Coriz from 2017, alongside others. 


Over the past century, the American Indian art world has been significantly influenced and sustained by Santa Fe’s Indian Market and tourist industry. And just as the market provides income to artists and their families, it also serves as a hub for cultural exchanges, connecting the worlds of Native and non-Native people. Indian Market itself has evolved through these exchanges, becoming a place where Native artists share cultural histories with non-Native visitors. In this respect, Indian Market has served not only as a marketplace, but also as a forum for the kind of cultural exchanges that enrich visitors’ understanding of the artworks and the communities from which they emerge.

The market, which was called “Southwestern Indian Fair and Industrial Arts and Crafts Exhibition” in its early years, has grown tremendously in scope and size since its 1922 beginnings. Originally sponsored by non-Native staff at the Museum of New Mexico and the School for American Research, it is now helmed by the mostly Native American staff and board members of SWAIA. The mission of the market has expanded as well. Created originally to preserve traditional designs and technologies of the past, the market is now committed to “bringing Native arts to the world by inspiring artistic excellence, fostering education, and creating meaningful partnerships.”

“Honoring Tradition and Innovation” opens Aug. 7, 2022. and runs until Aug. 23, 2023, at the New Mexico History Museum, 113 Lincoln Avenue, Santa Fe, NM, 87501. 

The 2022 Santa Fe Indian Market runs the weekend of Aug. 20-21, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., on and around the Santa Fe Plaza. Kids and families will want to check out the Native American Costume Contest on Aug. 21 at 9 a.m. Before the Market opens, “Art Indigenous,” a cutting-edge Contemporary North American Indigenous Art Fair, will debut on Aug. 17 from 6-10 p.m. A full schedule of events can be found on the Southwestern Association of Indian Arts website.


Brandon Brown is the public relations specialist with the Department of Cultural Affairs, representing New Mexico History Museum, New Mexico Historic Sites, New Mexico State Library and the Office of Archaeological Studies.


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