State Museum cancels 2010 Indian Art Fair

<i>Photo by Jannelle Weakly</i><br>
Hopi Coil Plaque by Alberta Selina.

<i>Photo by Jannelle Weakly</i><br> Hopi Coil Plaque by Alberta Selina.

TUCSON, Ariz. - As a result of this year's first round of cuts to its annual state budget allotment, the Arizona State Museum (ASM) has canceled what would have been the 17th annual Southwest Indian Art Fair (SWIAF) for 2010.

"As much as we have tried in the last two years to save as many jobs as we could, this new round of cuts forces us to eliminate staff positions," ASM Director Beth Grindell said. "There's simply nothing left to trim."

Some of those positions oversee the museum's larger public programs such as the SWIAF, which attracts about 6,000 guests annually. The SWIAF is the second of the museum's large-scale annual programs to be canceled. The popular summer solstice celebration, held in June and attracting an average of 3,000 guests, was the first to be cut earlier this year.

While ASM is a state institution, state tax dollars do not cover all its annual costs. In fact, state funds cover only about one-third of its total operating costs. The state does not fund research, collections care, programs, exhibitions, or public education of any kind. For these activities, so critical to its mission, the museum tirelessly pursues grants and sponsorships, and relies on program and membership revenues, admission fees, and private support.

"My staff works hard to acquire funds to produce programs for the public AND they volunteer their time to host the events - they take no extra pay for the overtime, evening and weekend hours they accumulate," Grindell said of her staff. "Still, we can no longer justify the salary, time, and expense to sustain our larger programs until our fiscal situation improves. We really hope this is only a temporary suspension of programming rather than an outright and indefinite cancelation. We're not happy about this decision."

In addition to the salary savings, the museum will save on and reassign the thousands of staff and volunteer hours that would have been dedicated to SWIAF to other prioritized duties.

The Southwest Indian Art Fair has been a staple of Tucson's vibrant February events since 1993, each year bringing more than 200 Indian artists from around the region to sell their authentic and handmade wares on the museum's expansive front lawn.

"Everybody suffers from this fiscal nightmare - the museum suffers from a decrease in visibility and community relevancy, the Native artists lose one of their annual income streams, and the region suffers from dwindling high-quality, multicultural events," said Rick Barrett, a member of the museum's advisory board.

"We are well aware of the value of the art fair to Arizona's American Indian artists and we will spend this coming year consulting on how to bring it back in a way that supports the artists, the museum, and the thousands of visitors who attend each year," Grindell said. In the meantime, ASM continues to offer exhibits, lectures, and the fall Native Eyes Film Festival to Tucsonans and visitors.

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