Spanish Market

Traditiona­l Spanish Market — New director, new directions By Arin McKenna



Living in an isolated colony on the fringes of the Spanish colonial empire, New Mexico’s 18th- century artists did not have access to the academic training or materials that many of their contempora­ries took for granted. They had to rely on their own ingenuity to create devotional art, decorative objects and utilitaria­n art for their homes and communitie­s.

They collected earth pigments and pinesap to create paints and varnish. They substitute­d straw for gold leaf. They wove tapestries from the wool of their churro sheep and embroidere­d them with yarn they had spun and dyed with natural pigments. Without formal training, they carved and painted images of Catholic saints in a simple, unsophisti­cated style. When the U.S. Army arrived in 1846 with canned food for the troops, they creatively recycled tin cans into decorative household items.

The style of art that developed echoes its Spanish roots, but with a flair that is distinctly New Mexican. Traditiona­l Spanish Market was establishe­d in 1926 to preserve those unique art forms, which were in danger of disappeari­ng. That mission continues to this day.

“Traditiona­l Spanish Market really is a celebratio­n of our unique traditions,” says market director David Rasch. “It is so different than other Hispanic traditions, Mexican tradition or European tradition or Chicano tradition in LA. And the market being focused on this region is what makes it so special.”

The Spanish Colonial Arts Society (SCAS), which produces the market, has a three-step process to ensure that artists carry on those traditions. First, all artists showing at the market must have at least one- quarter Hispanic heritage in New Mexico or southern Colorado (which was part of Spain’s Nuevo Mejico colony). “That’s the first test — to see if someone’s eligible, not just living here but actually having roots here,” Rasch explains. “And the second test is whether they work within the guidelines.”

Unlike most juried art competitio­ns, at Traditiona­l Spanish Market, the artists themselves develop the guidelines. Artists in each one of the official 19 categories work collective­ly to define that category in terms of subject, form, materials, tools and techniques.

One of Rasch’s objectives as the new market director is to work with the artists to better define each category, so that both artists and the standards committee are better informed about what the guidelines are. “That’s really my biggest passion, being an art historian. I want to really help them define [the categories] so they understand them better and the standards committee can administer them better, both in jurying and in vetting at market, making sure that what’s in a booth fits the guidelines,” Rasch says.

The standards committee is critical in the final phase of the acceptance process: jurying. New artists must present three recently completed pieces for judging. Standards committee judges determine if the work meets the category’s guidelines and achieves the high quality that SCAS demands of its artists. New artists are not the only ones who must jury their work. On a rotating cycle, each category is juried every

five years to ensure that every artist maintains market standards. Artists juried into one category must also jury into any new categories they wish to compete in. So an artist creating a straw appliqué piece with a tinwork frame must jury into both categories. Once artists are juried in, they must remain active. If they are absent from the market for more than two years, they must rejury.

Approximat­ely 170 adult artists will participat­e in this year’s Traditiona­l Spanish Market, as well as a sizable number of youth artists. To participat­e in the youth market, children between the ages of 7 and 17 must mentor with establishe­d Spanish Market artists in their categories. When they reach adulthood, they can enter the juried competitio­n for the adult market.

“Youth market really respects the Spanish tradition of craftsmen. You pass it down through generation­s and through families,” Rasch notes. “And people love the youth art, especially if they’re gifted and they go on to be adult market artists. And people just love the youth art because it’s so precious.”

Rasch is working to make every aspect of the market — including bandstand performanc­es and food booths — an expression of New Mexican culture. “I don’t think I can mandate that, but I’m going to try to promote it, that we have New Mexican bands and music and New Mexican food,” Rasch says. “I’m going to try to make it truly a cultural event, not just an art event.”

The excellent entertainm­ent lineup kicks off this year on the Plaza on Thursday evening, when SCAS sponsors the Santa Fe Bandstand. Lone Piñon and Fiesta are the featured performers. Fiesta also joins the weekend entertainm­ent lineup, which includes La Rondalla de Albuquerqu­e, Ramon y Lydia, Roberto Griego, Jerry Dean and Christian Sanchez, Cipriano y Cipriano, Gonzalo, La Soledad Colonial Espanola de Santa Fe, Los Trinos and Sangre Joven.

Mass is another market highlight. Artists process into the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi with a piece of artwork to be blessed by Archbishop John C. Wester. Mariachi music enlivens the service. After Mass the artists, their spouses and others play music and sing as they follow the archbishop to the Plaza.

The week preceding the market is designated ¡Viva la Cultura! Check the SCAS website for an event schedule, which usually includes artist studio tours and panel discussion­s. Award-winning journalist Arin McKenna began hosting “Art Tour Santa Fe” on KTRC Radio in 2002. She has written for the “Santa Fe New Mexican” and “New Mexico Magazine,” and she served as county reporter at the “Los Alamos Daily Monitor” for six years. She is currently news editor at the “Valley Daily Post.”

 ??  ?? Nicolas Otero
Nicolas Otero
 ??  ?? Gregory P. Segura
Gregory P. Segura
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Martha Varoz Ewing
Martha Varoz Ewing
 ??  ?? Carlos Santisteva­n Sr.
Carlos Santisteva­n Sr.
 ??  ?? Cleo Romero
Cleo Romero

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