Feria Maestros del Arte
By Harriet Hart
Feria Maestros del Arte is “more than a Feria.” It helps create and promote success stories that build the pride of families and communities throughout Mexico.
Organized by a band of volunteers 200 strong, November 2016 marks its 15th anniversary. The show is entirely free to the invited artists who are the highlight of this enriching, fun and authentically Mexican experience. Local families host the artists, forging wonderful cross-cultural bonds between people of diverse backgrounds.
The idea originated with Marianne Carlson 15 years ago with 13 artists attending. The Feria has come a long way since then. Ninety artists are invited to attend this year from all over Mexico. Purchasing from them is a satisfying way to help preserve a key pillar of Mexican tradition and history.
The Feria is an unparalleled opportunity to learn about the process, value, and meaning of generations-old Mexican folk art. The event has a strong, influential and significant impact on not only the artisans themselves but their communities as well. A survey taken in 2014 revealed that the 26 artisans from Chiapas provided work for 687 people, who in total supported 4,010 people.
At this colorful, all-day Mexican fiesta, you will also have the opportunity to savor great foods from Mexico while enjoying regional entertainment. Browse, shop, and learn about Mexican folk art in the wonderful, open-air environment of the Chapala Yacht Club.
Few of us will ever visit indigenous tribes living high up in the Sierra Madre Mountains or in caves in the Copper Canyon. This year three indigenous groups will be at the Feria: Huichols from neighboring Jalisco and Nayarit, Tarahamara from the Copper Canyon in Chiapas and the Lacandon from the jungles of Chiapas.
Libby Townsend started the Tarahumara Project after a road trip to Chihuahua. When her vehicle broke down, she was stranded in Creel for two weeks. The people were so kind, Libby resolved to do something for them in return. She collected and donated blankets and clothing and began purchasing their unique art: baskets, necklaces, masks, carvings and pottery.
The Feria organizers heard about her project and invited Libby to exhibit. The Tarahumara Project has participated for six years, helping dozens of families. Patrons of the Feria get to see art by this reclusive, mysterious people who are assisted in maintaining their traditional way of life.
UCLA anthropologist Susana Eger Valadez established the Huichol Center for Cultural Survival and Traditional Arts after she came to study the Huichol people for a month back in 1975. The Huichol are a tribe of shamans and artists who, until recently, lived undisturbed in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range in Jalisco and Nayarit.
Today approximately 8,000 survive, keeping alive a nature-based, spiritual way of life now extinct in most of the Americas. Due to the encroachment of the modern world, Huichol traditions are endangered. Susana wanted to ensure that their culture could be found outside history books, so she established a cultural center in the remote town of Huejuquilla El Alto. The center provides artistic training and jobs and helps the Huichols stay in their communities.
Artists from the center have come to the Feria Maestros del Arte every year since the very first Feria because it provides the Huichol artists with a venue where they can sell their art, have it seen by collectors and gallery owners, and where Feria goers can learn about this mysterious indigenous culture located right on their doorstep.
Original Friends, The Women’s Prison Project assists incarcerated women. When Rebecca Roth found herself living in Dorm C – 3 of the Reclusorio Feminil in Puente Grande outside Guadalajara, she needed a positive outlet for her negative feelings of helplessness, fear and anger. She made a fabric doll for an inmate’s newborn, and it became the prototype for all the dolls she helps her fellow prisoners craft from fabric, ribbons, buttons and lace. These women use their imaginations to create ballerinas and mermaids, fairies and clowns. The prisoners earn some much-needed income and learn to value themselves and their artistic abilities.
Countless artisans have been approached at the Feria by organizations to exhibit their work in the U.S. as well as in other countries. The Feria experience gives Maestros a life-changing, world-opening opportunity to sustain and propel their mastery and art into other cultures.
Come to the 15th Annual Feria Maestros del Arte, November 11-13 at the Chapala Yacht Club, and experience for yourself an event that will tug at your heart – and hopefully your purse.
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