Two weeks ago, we arrived in Phoenix, hot and tired from our two-day drive out from Dallas. But we were so excited, because March 4th,Friday evening the Heard Museum hosted the Artist Reception and Dinner, and we were able to get a sneak preview of the award winning pieces and chat with some of the artists.
This is the 58th year that the Heard Museum has held their Indian Market, and they and their dedicated volunteers work hard to provide a quality venue for the Native American artists to display and sell their arts. The competition for ribbons is fierce, and the juries for each category often find themselves seeking the smallest details to help separate first place from second place. Even getting into the Indian Market is challenging, as artists must apply (with photos representative of their work) and go through a blind evaluation before they are even accepted to exhibit.
So Friday night was very special for Michael and me. We went into the Exhibit rooms, where they had both a Silent Auction going on, as well as a nice buffet dinner for guests. The highlight of the night, however, was moving into the two rooms that held the award winning pieces. Docents with white gloves were standing by each of the tables and insuring that nothing was disturbed, as these were exquisite pieces of art. As with other competitions, the categories were diverse, including paintings, pottery, textiles, sculpture, beadwork, jewelry, and many others.
While going through the pottery section, I signaled to Michael to come over to a table where I was standing. I asked him to identify the potters who had created the items, and without hesitation he immediately said that the first one was Dominique Toya and the second was Nancy Youngblood. They had both won First Place ribbons for their pottery entries, which came as no surprise to either of us. A Cherokee potter, Karin Walkingstick, also won a First Place ribbon for an unusually textured of pot. Cliff Fragua won two ribbons for his sculptures, and Meagan Shetima won a ribbon in the Youth carver category. It seemed that almost everywhere we turned, we saw a name of an artist that we knew (and usually had one or more of their pieces in our Gallery).
So Saturday and Sunday were full days at the Indian Market for us. We had to divide the roughly 600 artists into two parts, with a short list of people we wanted to see on each day. Then we set out to chat and visit with our friends. What is nice about this type of event is that even if an artist doesn’t win a ribbon, their works are still very high quality and very collectible, so almost everything we saw was impressive.
Another part of the Indian Market that we really enjoyed was the cultural activities, highlighted by the Zuni Olla Maiden Dancers and the Oklahoma Fancy Dancers. These groups performed each day and the comfortable grass amphitheater was an amazing venue for their dances. It gave us a needed break from all the walking, and we always enjoy the colorful regalia as well as the dancers telling us a bit about their dances, regalia, and traditions.
Another year of the Heard Indian Market has passed by, and the artists are already actively working toward the next venue, where they will once again engage in friendly competition for ribbons and bragging rights, as well as market their wares. For many artists, particularly those not represented in many retail outlets, this is their primary source of income. We always encourage people who enjoy the look of Native American art to buy directly from the artist whenever possible, or through reputable galleries when you can’t be at a show. This gives you the opportunity to learn more about the artist and gives deeper and richer meaning to the art itself.
The Santa Fe Indian Market is the largest show, held the third weekend of August each year. There are other venues as well, and we will try to spotlight those as they come up. If you get a chance, spend a day or two at a show and talk with some artists. It will definitely be time well spent.