Members of our staff were fortunate to attend the SWAIA (Southwestern Association for Indian Arts) Art Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was a profound, inspirational, educational, political, eye-opening, joyous display of Native art from across North America.
There were several tables of activists representing government entities seeking to protect and amplify indigenous artists including the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Indian Arts and Crafts Board from the Sioux Indian Museum in Rapid City, South Dakota, the Native Organizers Alliance, and Build a Nest, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) whose mission is “supporting the responsible growth and creative engagement of the artisan & maker economy to build a world of greater gender equity and economic inclusion”
But back to the artists.
The door panel below was awesome and just casually graced a bathroom in a hotel. And the hate below to the right? All of the colored band and hat brim is decorated in porcupine quills softened, dyed and threaded and weaved around the hat. Stunning.
I was thrilled by the cultural pride and historic aspects imbued into every instance of intricate beading, precise clay molding, thoughtful brush strokes, and intentional weaving. It was humbling and educational and frequently quite emotionally moving.
Like everyone, and acknowledging my place as a white man walking amidst the Native art booths, I was inspired to slow down, ponder, and especially listen. I listened to the artists’ stories for what drives their creativity and inspires their vision. I had to be careful not to take too much of their time as they were there to sell, not just indulge my queries. But when I was able to connect in conversation with the artists, I was transported through genuine human connection and story-telling.
I was grateful to listen to the wisdom of visionaries who’ve dedicated themselves to creating artworks that make people think deeper, honor culture, translate history, and educate all people while also beautifying our lives.
I was honored to be there and honored to listen to the artists’ insights.
Honored, as we all are when we speak with artists.
One of my favorite interactions was with a jeweler, J.J. Otero. He displayed a large necklace with the words “Resist” and “Landback” printed around the central gorgeous stone. I remarked that I was surprised I hadn’t seen that on more of the policially-adjacent artworks in Santa Fe. JJ responded, “Sometimes the markets don’t like politics.” With that, he winked and smirked.
I was a bit taken aback by that statement. Some might say “all art is political”. That can mean something different to every person. To me, it comes from the fact that so much art is produced because the creator is pushed to express themselves; that they don’t have any choice to make a statement about something; that they must speak up and speak out. And the artists in Santa Fe at the American Indian Art Market most definitely feel the need, the intrinsic drive to speak up and create something – to express their hopes, fears, bitterness, aspiration in artistic format. Such a drive imbues much most of the art on display. And given the history and culture throughout the Art Market, I would have assumed that “politics” was a given. That even the organizers of the market would say “Bring it on! Express yourselves!”
But even something as clearly layered as Native history, culture and art was supposed to shed itself of the context and richness informed by history and politics? That was surprising to me.
But Mr. Otero who winked at me made it a charming inside joke.
The perfect climax to the entire event was attending the Indigenous Fashion Show. The show featured the designers Orlando Dugi, Patricia Michaels, Sho Sho Esquiro, Skawennati, Catherine Blackburn,Melanie LeBlanc, Lauren Good Day, and Jamie Okuma. The creativity, the perspective, the eye-popping boldness, and especially the political statements were thrilling.
And of course, Santa Fe is always a magical (or as the license plates say, enchanting) destination – a city full of unique cultural heritage.
Fun fact: the oldest and highest U.S. capitol, resting at 7,000 feet and nestled up against the Rocky Mountains, the city of Santa Fe was established by European colonizers in 1607 and declared the capitol of the province of New Spain in 1610.
SWAIA will definitely stay on the 4A Arts calendar going forward as we strive to foster greater access and dialogue between artists and audiences.
Elena K. Holy is proud to join the 4A movement as General Manager. Her 30+ year arts management career includes NYC’s non-profit Roundabout Theatre Company, commercial Broadway and Off-Broadway at Richard Frankel Productions, and founding and running The Present Theatre Company, where she co-created the New York International Fringe Festival (FringeNYC). FringeNYC was once the largest multi-arts festival in North America – with an all-volunteer staff of 100 people, 2500+ additional volunteers, and 5000 artists representing 200 companies from all over the world, and producing nearly 1100 performances annually, with many now-famous alumni and productions.
As Producer, Holy was awarded the 1997 New York Magazine Award for her “creativity, vision and enterprise”. In 2006, she was named one of New York Magazine’s “Influentials” because she “turned the Fringe Festival, which she founded in 1996, into Sundance for the theater crowd – a place where anyone with an idea and a tiny budget can get noticed. Urinetown, the 1999 Fringe musical that made it to Broadway and won three Tonys, is the most extreme example, but more than a dozen Fringe shows have gone on to significant Off Broadway runs. Her triumph: retaining the fest’s brilliant lunacy amid commercial success.”
Other achievements include the 2007 Mayor’s Award for Arts & Culture, serving as a Tony Awards Nominator from 2008, and being named an Indie Theater Hall of Fame “Person of the Decade” in 2015. As FringeNYC ended (and the pandemic began) she became Interim Managing Director at SHADOWLAND STAGES in beautiful Ellenville, New York where she and husband Kevin share a home with their two westies, Daisy and JuneBug. She serves as Treasurer for the local Chamber of Commerce and is an active member of her community.
Working as the Communications and Marketing Coordinator of 4A Arts fulfills Alex Carrillo’s dream to bring his knowledge of the entertainment industry to the broader arts and culture world. Born in Oakland, CA and raised in the Tri-Cities of Washington state, Alex envisaged himself exiting generational poverty and eventually working in the music industry.
After high school, without scholarships, funding, or other support to help him reach his goals, he enlisted in the U.S. military in 2013, joining the Army Infantry. Alex received his basic training in Fort Benning, Georgia before being stationed in Fort Drum, New York, where he proudly became a member of 4-31 Charlie Company, the Mountain Division (the world’s best kept secret). In 2015, Alex was deployed to Afghanistan in a classified combat war zone through early 2016.
After his time in the service, Alex returned home to seek his college degree. He enrolled at The Los Angeles Recording School, a division of the Los AngelesFilm School, where he received his associate’s degree in Music Production and bachelor’s in Entertainment Business.
While still studying at the L.A. Recording School, Alex landed a publishing deal with Position Music, earning his music a place in the Netflix movie Moxie and in the video game NBA2k22 with his album Locked In.
After receiving his Bachelor’s degree, Alex began working on the business side of the industry, managing artists, performing social and digital marketing, and distribution, among other duties. Alex joined 4A Arts in the summer of 2022, bringing those talents to the nonprofit world.
Whitney S. Christiansen is a native Kentuckian with an interdisciplinary background in arts, education, and advocacy. She spent nearly a decade teaching secondary English and drama in public schools, receiving a master’s in Interdisciplinary Humanities from the University of Louisville in 2017, where she received that year’s Grady Nutt Award for the year’s most creative directed study project, “Summoned,” an interdisciplinary practicum that combined research on medieval morality plays and Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus with contemporary concepts of costume and set design. From 2009-2015 she was a cast member and later director for the Kentucky Highland Renaissance Festival, where she inaugurated and directed the festival’s teen cast, who developed two stage shows in the commedia dell’arte tradition.
Leaving the classroom in 2019, Whitney received her second master’s degree from Colorado State University in Arts Leadership and Cultural Management, where she began working with Be An #ArtsHero, a grassroots campaign dedicated to bringing COVID relief to Arts Workers (now Arts Workers United.) She was the researcher on staff for AWU’s lobbying team for the U.S. House Small Business Committee’s January 2022 hearing on the creative economy, and for Ovation TV’s The Green Room with Nadia Brown, an educational comedy show about the creative economy that launched in March of 2022. Formerly the general manager of the Center for Music Ecosystems, Whitney heads up 4A Arts’ new research initiative alongside her work managing central operations.
Actor, entrepreneur, political strategist, and father of two, Gavin Lodge comes to 4A Arts with a unique perspective on arts and culture in America. A 20-year veteran of stage and screen, Gavin grew up in suburban Colorado and traversed the country in his work with political campaigns at the senate and presidential levels as well as touring for shows.
After studying international affairs and philosophy at the University of Colorado, he worked as a field organizer in the Iowa Caucus followed by the role of “body guy” to then-candidate Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington State. Politics empowered him to move to New York City to pursue a performing career. Ultimately, he performed in multiple Broadway shows (including 42nd Street, Spamalot, and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) as well as regional theater, national tours and several network television appearances.
Though he was thrilled every time he stepped onto a theatrical or sound stage, Gavin was equally happy to take on leadership roles in his local union and later his kids’ PTA.
With the Covid-19 pandemic, Gavin jumped back into the political realm, working as a strategist for Bryson Gillette, a minority-owned PR firm focused on politics and public affairs. He also volunteered for Be an #ArtsHero, an arts advocacy movement blossoming during the first few months of the pandemic. During his time with Be an #ArtsHero, he was part of a team that successfully lobbied for a first-of-its-kind hearing on the creative economy in front of the House of Representatives Small Business Committee.
Gavin lives in rural Connecticut with his partner (a composer and orchestral conductor), his TikTok-dancing daughter (who is musically gifted in unparalleled ways) and his soccer-playing son who recently told him “Dad? I’m just not into concerts and theater stuff.” As he told his son, Gavin believes there is much more to American arts and culture than “concerts and theater stuff.” From the video games his son loves to play to low-rider paint jobs to streaming television series while sitting on the couch, Gavin sees American arts and culture as an inclusive, “big tent” spectrum where everyone is an artist and everyone is a member of an audience.