The History of the Feria Maestros del Arte
By Marianne Carlson
Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico
Feria Maestros del Arte is an art show conceived from a trip in 2002 when a friend and I took a “four-day-adventure-mega-shopping trip” to 16 artisan villages between Ajijic and Pátzcuaro, Michoácan.
Clearly, most of the incredible art we were seeing was not being sold anywhere in our area, because as collectors, we would have seen it. Many artists live in remote areas and it is difficult and expensive for them to attend art shows to sell their work. Often, sales are confined to the tianguis (outdoor market) in their puebla (town) or, if they get lucky, to collectors (like me) who manage to track them down at their homes.
I felt strongly that these talented, creative people needed a continuous outlet to sell their work. Mexico’s art is disappearing because artists cannot sustain a living on their art alone. The thought of this trend continuing was more than my heart could bear — something had to be done. I decided to organize a venue where artists could sell their work and keep all the money they made—no booth fee or percentage of sales would be charged, and they would have no lodging expenses because of our “Hosting Program” where they are placed with local families for the three days they are at the show. We would also pay for their transportation. The first Feria was in 2002 and I invited 13 artists.
A legal Mexican and U.S. non-profit organization, Feria Maestros del Arte is organized by an army of volunteers; there are no paid personnel.
In 2016, our 15th anniversary, we will be hosting 85 artists from all corners of Mexico—Chihuahua, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Mexico, Hidalgo, Puebla, Veracruz, Michoacán, Jalisco, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Yucatán, Sonora and Campeche. They will come together in Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico to exhibit and sell their art to collectors, galleries, museum buyers and the general public.
With much of the cultural diversity of Mexico disappearing, our mission is to facilitate regional and international awareness of the plight of endangered Mexican folk art. Toward fostering the preservation and development of this art, now and in the future, the organization provides a yearly exhibition venue for folk artists to sell their work to galleries, collectors and museums. We further strive, through collaboration with the Mexican organizations and government, as well as entities outside Mexico, to preserve not just the art itself, but the culture producing it, by giving the artists a viable means to sell their work using their traditional skills both in Mexico and abroad.
Educating the public to the plight of Mexican indigenous and folk art is a high priority of Feria Maestros del Arte. Bringing these artists to the public’s attention increases knowledge of Mexico’s history and heritage issues. Our project enhances the identity and traditional values of Mexico and contributes to the rescue and preservation of its art.
I consider myself to be one of the luckiest “transplants” living in Mexico! For over 35 years, I have traveled throughout Mexico seeking adventure and experiencing the spirit and essence of this country I now call home for the last 19 years. However, since moving to Lake Chapala, the focus and reasons for my viajes (trips) now have a purpose beyond adventure itself — locating specific Mexican folk artists. Wow! Imagine meeting and getting to know some of the finest artists in Mexico. I am proud to call many of these maestros (masters) friends and part of my extended Mexican family.
If you are adventurous and would enjoy seeing Mexican folk art at its best, consider traveling to Mexico for Feria Maestros del Arte next November 11-13, 2016. I can assure you, this is a very safe area of Mexico. It is also one of the most beautiful areas of Mexico situated on Mexico’s largest lake, Lake Chapala, which is about one hour south of Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city. We have some of the finest restaurants you may ever have experienced.
See you at the Feria!
For the dates and detailed itinerary of our Cultural Immersion into Old Mexico tour which includes attending the Feria and meeting the artists click here.