Labor Day weekend in Northern New Mexico means the Annual Kewa Pueblo Arts and Crafts Market on the Kewa Pueblo square, south of the 1890 Santo Domingo Mission Church.
With approximately 350 artists, this quiet art fair is one of the largest Native art events in the country. Kewa Market hosts more artists than the Eiteljorg, Autry, Cherokee, and Indigenous Fine Art Markets and is only smaller than the Santa Fe Indian Market and Heard Fair. It might be the largest tribally-run art market in the US. Yet, this market barely has a web presence. Despite its low profile, Kewa Arts Market provides some artists with better sales than Santa Fe Indian Market in some years. First established in around 1970, the market ran through 1980 and was revived in around 1990.
In addition to visual art, the market hosts local farmers selling corn, melons, and other fresh produce, while food vendors sell everything from mutton stew to Kool-Aid pickles. There were enough food booths to accommodate the crowds.
At regular intervals, Kewa dance troupes and drummers provided of dancing and music. Compared to the chaos and confusion of Santa Fe, this market was calm, casual, and collected (albeit not necessarily cool—we were impressed by the stamina of the artists and the dancers braving the windy, dusty heat).
Most of the artists were Kewa or from neighboring Pueblos, as well as Navajo, Zuni, and other tribes. The artists provide their own tents on a neatly laid-out grid. The order made for easy browsing, and we could see every booth within a couple hours.
Shell and lapidary work predominated. Ceramics were wonderfully abundant, including Acoma effigy pottery and Picuris micaceous pottery. A wide range of jewelers, silversmiths, and stone sculptors displayed their artwork. Textile artists showed fashion designs, quilts, shawls, woven sashes, and dance regalia.
This market might be one of New Mexico’s best-kept secrets. It has no website, and its Facebook event was drafted by a participating artist: Kami Valencia (San Felipe-Zuni) of Pueblo Rain Embroidery. Definitely, something to put on your calendar for 2017!