Santa Fe Indian Market financial state questioned

May 12, 2014 • State News

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The city of Santa Fe’s biggest tourist draw is also drawing concerns about its current financial state, the New Mexican reported ( Saturday.

The Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA), which sponsors the market every August, shortened employees’ work-weeks and reduced benefits this year. Factoring in recent staff resignations, some have been speculating about the financing of the annual Santa Fe Indian Market.

Three key workers, including chief operating officer John Torrez Nez, resigned and recently announced their own arts market taking place the same weekend.

Still, some business owners [auth] said they question why the organization has not reached out for contributions with all the budget cuts going on.

Bronwyn Fox-Bern, a gallery owner and a member of SWAIA, said the organization hasn’t been very open about financial issues or need for donations in the last couple of years.

“I was ready to give auction donations, more money for awards, and nobody ever approached me,” Fox-Bern said. “I thought there were some wasted opportunities.”

John Dressman, who operates Santa Fe Trading Co. downtown, said the group shouldn’t be shy about soliciting donations. People in Santa Fe, in fact, appreciate being approached in person.

“Santa Fe is that kind of town,” Dressman said. “That kind of personal touch is what is going to be required.”

Gov. Susana Martinez earlier this year vetoed $25,000 that lawmakers had earmarked for advertising the market. Now, the funds are administered as grants by the state Department of Tourism. In an interview before his resignation, Torres Nez said that the Indian Market did not receive $75,000 total from requests made in 2011 and 2012 from the tourism and cultural affairs departments. Jolene Mauer, a Department of Tourism spokeswoman, said the agency’s records show SWAIA has not applied for grants in the past three years.

Charlene Porsild, SWAIA chief development officer, said Friday that they have applied for a grant in the next funding cycle. Porsild said she is also working to recruit more business memberships into the organization. She declined to discuss why businesses may have been overlooked before but “we are asking right now, and we would love for (them) to support us.”

No other event brings as much revenue to the city, tourism officials said. The market is held out on the Plaza and generates about $140 million in spending through sales of art, food, lodging and other miscellaneous expenses.

“I don’t think there’s anything that touches it,” said Randy Randall director of the Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s the highest demand period of the year.”

According to Randall, visitors at the market spend more time in Santa Fe than most other tourists. While the average tourist pays for 2.6 days of lodging, that figure goes up to four days during Indian Market season.

The SWAIA last week announced the hiring of Dallin Maybee, an attorney and artist, as a new chief operating officer.

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