Five NWT artists set to attend ‘huge’ market in New Mexico

This August, a group of five Indigenous artists from the NWT will head to Santa Fe, New Mexico to sell their work at one of the most esteemed markets of its kind.

The group will be in the American southwest from August 16 to 18 for the Santa Fe Indian Market (SFIM), which will be returning to the city for the 102nd time.

“I’m very honoured and feel privileged to be able to attend the Santa Fe Indian Market,” said Fort Simpson Dene and Métis artist Shawna McLeod, who will be visiting Santa Fe for the first time. “It was on my bucket list to go as a spectator, so you can imagine that I never thought I would be attending as a vendor.

“It’s quite a prestigious event.”

McLeod will be joined in New Mexico by Yellowknifers John Sabourin, Darrell Chocolate and Sheena Yakeleya, and Antoine Mountain from Fort Good Hope. The NWT cohort will be part of a larger group of roughly 800 Indigenous artists from across Canada and the United States who will have the chance to sell their art directly to an estimated 100,000 attendees.

McLeod, who specializes in beaded jewelry, has yet to decide what exactly she will sell at the August event, but is currently working that part out.

“I’m currently trying to figure out what my collection will look like for the market,” she said. “This is a huge event for me — I plan to bring staple pieces like my signature sweetgrass studs, antler and hide tassel earrings, and moose and caribou hair tufted earrings. I’m also hoping to create a few larger statement earrings, pins, bolo ties and adorned garments, but the event is quickly approaching so we will see what I’m able to create.”

McLeod and her fellow NWT artists will make the trip to New Mexico with the support of NWT Arts, a division of the GNWT that supports the territory’s creatives.

Ahead of the event, NWT Arts has partnered with the Yukon First Nations Culture and Tourism Association (YFNCT), who will also send five artists south, as well as the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA).

“Thankfully, NWT Arts is helping me navigate that process, what that looks like for me as a Northern artist crossing borders and making it easier for me to attend,” said McLeod.

Johanna Tiemessen, the GNWT’s manager of arts and traditional economies, called the SFIM “one of the most prestigious markets for Indigenous art and fine craft.”

She said the event has “the potential to advance and inspire” the artists’ careers, and “will also raise awareness of the quality of Indigenous art and fine craft made in northern Canada to this elite audience of art appreciators, buyers, collectors and galleries.”

“We’re thrilled to see this initiative moving ahead in partnership with the NWT Arts program,” added YFNCT executive director Robin Chambers. “Creating space for Indigenous artists from the North to participate in an established international event further aids in creating opportunity for growth and awareness of the individual artists and the arts and culture industries in the North as a whole. We’re looking forward to learning from this project and continuing in our efforts to raise up Indigenous artists from the North.”

McLeod, for her part, is hoping that her attendance of the event will be a boon for her career as an artist.

“I hope to have the opportunity to create meaningful connections and support other Indigenous artisans at the event,” she said. “I’m going to take this experience as a learning opportunity and I’m so proud to represent the Dehcho region at SWAIA.”

Tom Taylor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, NWT News/North