Final Expo Joins Colorful International Folk Art Market Event in Santa Fe
By Erica Burman on Wednesday, July 13th, 2011
While the state of New Mexico is known as The Land of Enchantment, Santa Fe, its capital is known as The City Different. Put those two things together — enchantingly different — and the phrase perfectly sums up the final Peace Corps 50th Anniversary Around the World Expo. This Expo – the last of nine held around the country this past spring and early summer — took place on Thursday evening (July 7) in Santa Fe’s Railyard Park in conjunction with a community-wide launch party for the 8th Santa Fe International Folk Art Market.
The International Folk Art Market was the brainchild of RPCV Judy Espinar and from its earliest days the market has been embraced by the New Mexico Returned Peace Corps community, which devotes countless hours year-round to every aspect of the Market, from artist selection, to making travel arrangements, securing sponsorships, to setting up booths, to hosting artists and ringing up sales (You can read several articles about the market in the Winter 2008 issue of WorldView magazine.).
In many ways the Market parallels all three goals of the Peace Corps:
- It provides sustainable livelihoods–this year to 132 artists from 50 countries. Many artists come from countries where average income is less than $3 per day. Fifty-six artists come from cooperatives, thereby representing 19,700 artisans and positively impacting the lives of 200,000 community members. Prior to the actual two-day market artists participate in the Artist Training Program where they receive training in finances, marketing,and other business skills. In 2010, artist sales topped $2.1 million.
- Artists come to Santa Fe and interact with Americans and one another. For many it is their first time outside of their country, and they return to their communities energized with creative new ideas.
- During the course of the two-day Folk Art Market — now the largest in the world — over 22,000 Americans interact with the artisans, learn about their countries, their communities, their art. As I overheard one person say on the shuttle bus “It’s a cultural journey. It’s like traveling without leaving the country.” This year mingling with the visitors and local market goers were dignitaries from Cuba, Oman and South Africa; representatives from Donna Karan, Martha Stewart, and Yves Saint Laurent, as well as representatives of the Clinton Foundation and UNESCO, both of which have partnered with the Market. The market pours an estimated $16 million into the local economy.
So it was only fitting that the kickoff party for the 2011 Market throw a spotlight on the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps and serve as the culminating Around the World Expo event. International food carts, a story-telling area, a performance stage and a tent dubbed “PeaceCorpsWorld,” were set up in the Railyard. New Mexico Peace Corps Association coordinator Alan Burrus was on the site from 10 a.m., working with volunteers to set up the Peace Corps tent. Fifty Peace Corps photos showing New Mexico RPCVs during every era of service were hung on bright yellow walls, a big screen TV was brought in to show Peace Corps video clips and red burlap-covered tables were available for NMPCA members to share information about current projects. Also busy in the tent were NPCA program assistant Kim Matranga, and Peace Corps recruiters Erica Gannon, Shanti Coumbe and Shawn Abeita.
Then, starting at 5 p.m., RPCVs and members of the public streamed through the tent. At 6 p.m. NPCA President Kevin Quigley and Peace Corps representative Mike McKay addressed the growing crowds, speaking about the significance of the Market and the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps.
In the distance one could hear drums… and then it was time for the Artist Procession! Led by a spectacular group of folk dancers and musicians from Oman, 132 Market artists, all in colorful national dress, paraded into the Railyard to be welcomed by the New Mexico community. I had the privilege of announcing each country as they walked across the stage in a mashup of the Olympic Opening Ceremony and the Oscars. Two talented musicians calibrated a musical selection to every country, much to everyone’s enjoyment.
Last but not least, the New Mexico RPCVs were invited on stage to be saluted. They then joined the gathered artisans–and the 2011 Market was declared officially open! Citizens of Santa Fe grooved into the night to the sounds of the West African Highlife Band, a distinguished group of West African music veterans playing highlife and Palmwine dance hits of the 50s, 60s and 70s.
For lots of photos of the Peace Corps Expo and Kickoff community party, visit our Peace Corps Flickr set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/peacecorpsconnect/sets/72157627180309514/
Or view our photos on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150259311113684.349230.8545788683
Stay tuned for additional posts about Peace Corps at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market.
Selected Press Coverage:
- Artists from 50 Countries Show Wares at Santa Fe Market (Reuters) 7/9/11
- Peace Corps Expo Celebrates with Folk Art Market in Santa Fe (New Mexico Business Weekly) 7/7/11
- Folk Art Market a Natural Fit for Former Peace Corps Members (The New Mexican) 6/5/11