Welcome Letter from David Setford SCAS Staff and Board
Everyone at the Spanish Colonial Arts Society welcomes you to the 66th consecutive Traditional Spanish Market. We hope you enjoy the works of art so beautifully grouped around the Plaza and find something that you love to take home and cherish. You will truly be taking a piece of the history of New Mexico and the Southwest into your lives. But beware: For some people, one piece is never enough!
The Spanish Colonial Arts Society’s mission is “to preserve, promote, exhibit and educate the public” about historic and present-day traditions in New Mexico and the former Spanish world. The market started in 1926, a year after the society was founded. The first market consisted of the sale of a few works at the New Mexico Museum of Fine Arts; it later moved to the portal of the Palace of the Governors. During the Great Depression and World War II, the market took a hiatus, returning with renewed vigor in 1951.
Since then, it has taken its place annually on the historic Santa Fe Plaza on the last full weekend in July. The number of artists has grown, from barely 10 at first to more than 230 today. At the center of our gathering is the youth market, where artists age 7 to 17 — each guided by an adult mentor — learn how to display and sell their work and how to converse with the general public.
Although we are not the largest heritage market in Santa Fe (our friends at Indian Market have that distinct honor), we have a unique significance to New Mexico. This is not just because the market is a living, breathing historical tradition but also because of its economic impact. Almost all market artists are from New Mexico, so money from their sales stays in the local economy rather than being siphoned off and sent to faraway places. Neither does the Spanish Colonial Arts Society retain any money from artists’ market sales.
In addition, a 2016 survey showed that our 95,000 visitors spent $3.8 million on lodging and a total of just over $4.2 million in greater Santa Fe. Nearly half of our visitors live more than 50 miles from the Plaza, and of those, nearly half are from out of state. We are very proud of those numbers and hope residents will realize the significant impact we have on the local economy.
Few people know that many of our artists are full-time professionals. Even those who are not rely on the market to make ends meet and feed their families. The traditions they follow are incredibly time-consuming. Often, like their forebears, they go into the hills to find natural material such as aspen, piñon or pine to carve or paint on. The wood then has to be adzed to size, in itself a laborious and skilled process. Many pigments are found in secret places, on rough hillsides many miles from civilization. Gesso is mixed from locally sourced gypsum and rabbit-hide glue. Wool is gathered, spun into yarn and hand- dyed with natural pigments from the earth or from plants. Our artists don’t purchase their materials at the craft store — the traditions they follow are part of the history and the authenticity of what they produce.
So, bearing all this in mind, how long does it take to make even a modest piece of colcha or a small retablo? The time varies, but certainly many, many hours. So if you buy a work of art at the market for $100 or $1,000, the price is probably a conservative reflection of the time the artist has spent on it, likely amounting to not much more than minimum wage. The faith and tradition behind the work also make it much more meaningful than a factory-produced tourist item.
So we urge you to support our artists in whatever way you can. Help us preserve an essential element of the potent “New Mexican mix.” Go home with an authentic piece of New Mexico; buy local!
Finally, we would like to thank all our sponsors for their continued support of Traditional Spanish Market. These include The Santa Fe New Mexican, New Mexico True and the New Mexico Department of Tourism, the City of Santa Fe Arts Commission, Heritage Hotels and Resorts, Santafe.com, Ameri Corps, New Mexico Arts and all the businesses and private individuals who sponsor booths at the market. We could not have done it without all of you, and we appreciate your contributions very much!