Mission, Vision, Values & History
To preserve and promote Mexican indigenous and folk art. We help preserve these art forms and the culture that produces them by providing the artists a venue to sell their work to galleries, collectors, museums and corporations. We promote regional and international awareness to the value of these endangered arts.
We envision greater appreciation and expansion of Mexico’s colorful artisan traditions worldwide by:
1. Fostering education, economic opportunities and cultural sustainability of Mexican indigenous and folk art
2. Facilitating greater interest in Jalisco tourism as an artistic and cultural destination
3. Cooperatively working with the Mexican community – artists, individuals, organizations and government – to expand awareness, knowledge and sales of Mexican folk and indigenous art.
We are a group of culturally diverse dedicated and industrious volunteers who care passionately about the folk artists and art of Mexico. Our commitment to the mission of the Feria is balanced with an interest in enjoying ourselves and being a vital force to enhance the appreciation of Mexican indigenous and folk art.
Feria Maestros del Arte is a "heart" show - not just another "art" show. The Feria is a legal Mexican and U.S. non-profit organization. Donations from outside Mexico are tax deductible. We are currently working to change our non-profit status so that our donations from inside Mexico are tax deductible as well.
Organized by an army of volunteers, artists do not pay any fees or percentage of sales. They are hosted by local families, fed, and transportation to the Feria is paid by the Feria. Their participation in the Feria is a unique community event. Every year, extraordinary cross-cultural bonds are forged between families of diverse backgrounds. For many artists, it is their first contact with the outside art world.
The idea for Feria Maestros del Arte evolved from a trip Marianne Carlson (founder) took with a friend to 17 artisan villages between Ajijic, Jalisco and Pátzcuaro, Michoacán in March, 2002. She realized she was meeting artists whose work the average person would never have a chance to see. When questioned about where they sold their work, most of the artists said in their homes or at yearly ferias (fairs) in local towns.
One of Marianne's talents is organization, so she thought why not have a feria in Ajijic? She took the chance (not having organized an event in Mexico) and put together the first Feria Maestros del Arte which hosted 13 artists. The show was well received and the artists' sales were excellent.
Her first inclination in developing the show was to make it a "for profit" event that might help with the income she needed to support herself in Mexico until she would begin receiving her social security. After working with these wonderful people that first year, it suddenly didn't matter anymore about the money. She simply wanted the opportunity to meet more artists and be exposed to the incredible folk art that would later become so important in shaping her new life south of the border.
Some of the maestros are already well known in the US and even Europe, however, their work is almost never seen at art exhibitions in Mexico. Marianne used to select the artists herself, however, as the Feria grew, the Artist Selection Committee was formed. There are also state coordinators in Oaxaca, Chiapas and Michoacán who recommend who should be invited from their states. Then the committee looks at what the three states have recommended and selects the remaining artists to ensure a good variety and no overlaps in types of art. This blending of artists helps give the show credibility and attract buyers.
Bringing the artists together at the Feria: (1) affords the public the opportunity to see the work of some of Mexico’s finest artists, (2) allows each artist another venue to exhibit and sell their work, possibly making connections for future sales enabling them to continue making a living selling their art, (3) gives the artists the opportunity to meet one another, develop new friendships and connections, and (4) offers a vehicle to promote the indigenous and folk art of Mexico while at the same time educating the public that such art is on the brink of becoming endangered and disappearing forever.
Why do we do it?
To keep Mexican folk art alive! As Mexico changes, many artists have been forced to give up their art to make a living. Often, they are forced from their villages into the cities in order to provide for their families.
Without the kind of intervention Feria Maestros del Arte provides, the world's most creative culture will lose its exceptional heritage. Help us preserve Mexico's artistic traditions. Visit Lake Chapala, one of Mexico's most beautiful areas, spend a weekend with master artists (maestros) and the vibrant multicultural community that makes this Feria possible, and take home treasures from one of the world's most soulful and creative cultures. We've made it affordable for everyone!
Where do we find the Maestros?
First, hours of research goes into locating maestros that produce the type of folk art we are looking for. It has taken years to find certain artists - nothing has been written about them in books or on the Internet. Then, a conversation or a new contact will provide the information the artist is contacted.
Next a trip is planned to find and meet the new artists. Trips have taken me through the mountains of Michoacán, the desolate Chihuahuan desert, and miles of nothing between isolated towns. Often, we will arrive in a village only to find that the artist no longer practices their craft, my information is incorrect, or the artist has passed away.
Most of the artists do not have a street address so it's door-to-door until someone points us in the right direction. With introductions over, and the artist aware of why we have come to see his/her work, we begin to discuss the viability of having the artist attend Feria Maestros del Arte.
Who are the Maestros?
Hand-picked master artists are found all over Mexico. We do not just call them on the telephone and ask them to attend the show - we travel to their homes.
Collectors and buyers are brought an astonishing variety of exceptional folk art. Many of them are featured in the acclaimed books Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art, Great Masters of Oaxacan Folk Art or Great Masters of Latin America and have practiced their art for generations; others are inspired artists yet to be discovered. All are masters of their mediums: clay, paper, fabric, paint, wood, stone, silver, alpaca, and other traditional materials.
If indigenous and folk art are not publicly exhibited and the artists are not given new opportunities to sell their work, then it is quite possible their work will not be passed on to the next generation.
Feria Maestros del Arte brings you all of this:
Where else can I see the work of the Maestros?
Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art. This book is required reading for collectors and interested devotees of Mexican folk art. The book honors the enduring tradition of folk art by displaying more than 500 works of art by 181 of Mexico’s greatest living folk artists. Great Masters of Latin American Folk Art. This book just released in 2012 is another book considered required reading for collectors and interested devotees of Mexican folk art. Great Masters of Oaxacan Folk Art. Also released in 2012, here is another book considered required reading for collectors and interested devotees of Latin American folk art.
These incredible art books were published by Fomento Cultural Banamex, a major Mexican bank now owned by Citicorp. Over a two-year period, communities all over Mexico were visited and a group of master artisans were selected representing all parts of the country. Now these works of art are also on display in US museums as well.
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