Southwestern Association for Indian Arts

Grantee:  Southwestern Association for Indian Arts
Location:  Santa Fe, N.M.
Award:  Regional Collaboration Pilot Program
Discipline:  Strengthening the Arts and Cultures Infrastructure
Web Site:

For more than 90 years, the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) has been an active Native arts and cultures advocacy organization best known for its planning and staging of the annual Santa Fe Indian Market.

Indian Market is an exceptional event because of its inclusiveness, size and variety of art forms; its centrality as the annual convening of the Native arts and culture community and its incomparable foundation for broad educational opportunities. Indian Market also provides unprecedented opportunities for art sales – both as a venue and in the encouragement of new and innovative work – and brings together a critical mass of art experts, patrons and appreciators.

Funding in this initiative assisted SWAIA in developing and building a master artist database and consolidating and systematically organizing images, paper records, and artist commentary. The database includes more than three-thousand artists and continues to expand. In addition to more fully documenting Native arts and cultures, it also exponentially expanded SWAIA’s efficiencies and educational capacities. The development of new commercial venues and opportunities immediately improved the planning and organizing of Indian Market for future years. In addition, the database provides external access to artists and the general public via electronic web-based applications. These other external uses continue to help promote educational, commercial, and research activities by providing easy access to the end-user.

Under the organization’s stewardship, an unsurpassed record of Native artists and their work was developed that documented hundreds of tribal styles and art forms. These records also documented the historic and ongoing participation of generations of individual artists, and their communities, in Indian Market. The records contain photographic prints, slides, and digital images, as well as paper records of Indian Market participation, awards lists and correspondence of historical significance. The resources SWAIA holds are irreplaceable and not duplicated elsewhere.

The database was modeled on duplicating the first person experience of talking with an artist at Indian Market. However, there is a strong educational component that also incorporates the contexts of multiple generations and the individual artist’s ever-evolving work. It is anticipated that the SWAIA database can be linked to other databases, as well as provide encouragement to other cultural and arts organizations with the desire to create databases with accessibility and usability modeled on Native explanatory principles. SWAIA will eventually incorporate newspaper, additional archival sources and private collections into the database. Moreover, by using SQL standards, the SWAIA database will be linked and cross-referenced to other historic archives and public collections. This will aid in sorting out and making museum collections accessible on the basis of who people are today and allow them to work in collaboration with extant historic and academic models.

The efficiency gains have helped build organizational and staff capacities including the broadening of vital arts infrastructure support through generations of this first-person, accessible database of artists. Administratively it has improved organizational efficiencies, notably centralized record keeping and reduced time spent sorting paper. There are now also permanently archived records in a secure and stable format that are invaluable and will remain so for future generations.