Mexico's folk-art traditions are disappearing at an alarming rate. Artisans need opportunities to sell their work — the Feria offers them a venue at absolutely no cost — no booth fee, no percentage of sales, we pay their transportation to and from the event and find them host families where they sleep and eat for the three days of the show.
For some artisans, the sales they make at the Feria represent a major portion of their annual income.
The selection criteria for artisans is based on the merit and quality of their work, as well as their ability to continue to produce it.
Traditional folk art reflects shared cultural aesthetics and traditions, however, for the purposes of the Feria, traditions are dynamic and traditional folk art can be both reactive to, and innovative for the times.
We promote a wide range of Mexican folk art:
- world class
- and traditional
We are a non-profit donataria organization in Mexico and 501c3 non-profit in the United States — and are run entirely by volunteers.
History of the Feria
His voice trembled as he spoke, "They are taking all my work . . . everything" . . . They're taking everything!"
Emilio Molinero of Tzintzuntzan, Michoacán had been chosen to exhibit his work at the first Feria in 2001. A friend of the Feria was in Michoacán and offered to transport his boxes to the show so that he wouldn't have to carry them on the bus to Chapala.
My Spanish was pretty bad back then, and I think Emilio panicked at the thought of never seeing his boxes again — after all, I had only met him once.
I managed to calm him down as best I could and picked him up at the bus station at midnight the night before the Feria. When I delivered him to the site the next day, he saw all his boxes arranged in his booth space. A wry little smile told me he was grateful. By the end of the weekend, Emilio had sold everything he had brought and was over the moon happy — I had made a new friend and this was the beginning of Feria Maestros del Arte.
The idea for the Feria emerged during a trip I took with a friend to 16 artisan villages between Ajijic, Jalisco and Pátzcuaro, Michoacán in March 2001.
I realized I was meeting artists whose work the average person would never get the opportunity to see. When asked where they sold their work, most of them said in their local tianguis (open-air markets), or in a larger tianguis in other villages, if they could afford to travel there. Sometimes, buyers would come to their homes.
One comment was the same from all the artists — their art was in jeopardy of disappearing because it was so difficult to support themselves — already many artisans had abandoned their art to work in low-paying jobs where they could be sure of an ongoing income. They needed opportunities to continuously sell their work.
The wheels started turning and I began to think, why not bring them to Chapala for an exhibition?
Over the years, the structure of the Feria has changed. At first, I paid for everything and selected the artisans myself. I had no vision of how long the Feria might continue — it took on a life of its own!
After four years, I needed help. I put an ad in the local paper that a meeting was being held to find volunteers. Eighteen people I had never met before attended and, by the end of the meeting, we had several volunteer coordinators to help carry the load. Some of those first volunteers are still with the Feria today.
As we grew, the Artist Selection Committee was formed to oversee what artists would be invited each year — then, the Feria Gods found three state coordinators who would help select the artisans from their states; Oaxaca (Linda Hanna), Chiapas (Brigitte Ordoquy) and Michoacán (Terry Baumgart).
It is not difficult to keep the show new and different every year because there are so many incredible Mexican artists. We have heard from some of the Feria's attendees that "the Feria is the same every year" — NO IT IS NOT. Some artists might return for a second year, however, every year we select at least 40-50 new artists from the total of 85.
Having 85 artisans at the Feria:
(1) offers the public the opportunity to see the work of some of Mexico's finest artists,
(2) allows each artist a place to exhibit and sell their work, possibly making connections for future sales that will allow them to continue making a living selling their art,
(3) gives artists the opportunity to meet each other, develop new friendships and connections, and
(4) offers a vehicle to promote the folk art of Mexico, while at the same time educating the public that such art is in danger and on the verge of disappearing forever.
Many hours of research are dedicated to locating maestros who produce the quality of folk art we have become known for. It has taken years to locate certain artists, when suddenly, a conversation or a new contact will provide the information I need.
Searing for artists has taken me through the mountains, the desolate Chihuahuan desert, miles of nothing between isolated villages, and over roads meant for 4-wheel drive. Most artists don't have an address, so it's going door-to-door until someone points me in the right direction.
I hope you enjoy the Feria as much as I have enjoyed bringing it to you all these years.
For more information email:
WhatsApp 331 098 4850