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Artists from 50 countries show wares at Santa Fe market

Jul 9, 2011, 8:24 p.m.

"We celebrated so much when we found out. This was our dream," Kadyrkul said.

Each year the market provides an incentive for about 22-24 first-time artists by providing them with a financial assistance package that includes their airfare, hotel, shuttles, and hosting, said Ernesto Torres, the Director of Artist Relations for the Market.

"Many first-timers are rightfully worried about how their work will fare in the Market -- so this opportunity gives them a chance to participate by lessening that anxiety and the risk factor."

Once in Santa Fe, artists are offered training sessions in areas of marketing and business, in the hopes that self-sufficiency and future success will follow. And success has indeed spread into those communities lucky enough to be chosen to come to Santa Fe.

An artist from Rwanda said all the women in her cooperative were able to buy family health insurance and create community gardens. In Nepal, cooperative members used their funds to send children to school and pay for medical expenses. Former street beggars in Kandahar, Afghanistan, were now able to work inside or stay home.

One year an artist from Africa had perhaps the most profound comment: "These are the four days of the year when I am completely safe."

This year's Market also coincided with the final celebration honoring 50 years of the Peace Corps. By merging their final of nine Around-the-World Expo celebrations with the International Folk art Market, the event embodies the "overarching goal of the Peace Corps, which is the timeless work of making it a peaceful and prosperous world," said National Peace Corps Association President Kevin Quigley.

Despite New Mexico's largest wildfire on record, and now smoke and flash flood warnings throughout the state, thousands of people still gathered at a downtown park on Thursday for the Peace Corps celebration and to watch Market participants arrive by train in full traditional costume.

Cerny said she was "immensely grateful" for rains, which finally arrived in the state to slow the fire's progression and clear the skies. They arrived just in time to welcome the Market's thousands of visitors, 40 percent of whom come from out of state.

It's not just about the economics of a world market, but the community it creates, she said.

"It sounds like a cliche but I hear it all the time -- that the market is like a mini United Nations," said Cerny. "For both the artists and the market goers, these face-to-face encounters create a kind of hopeful magic. Art has always transcended conflict. It gives me hope for a troubled world."

(Editing by Greg McCune)

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