Petitioning Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, Inc. SWAIA Board of Directors & Stakeholders

To let the SWAIA/ BOD, artists, supporters, and general public know we declare our support of a New Market led by John Torres Nez


In light of the SWAIA press release posted on April 4th, 2014, it is clear that they are unwilling to take seriously the desires and concerns of the artists; the beneficiaries and the essential core of the “Santa Fe Indian Market.” Therefore, we, the undersigned artists and Native arts supporters, declare our full support of the positive movement toward creating a new Market led by John Torres Nez. 

 

 THE INVENTION OF A TRADITION

 For nine decades, the majority of the Native artists’ community has adapted to the changing leadership of what began as a volunteer-organized event to a 9-member staff and 13-member Board. But the seemingly sudden departure of John Torres Nez, ex- Chief Operating Officer (COO) of SWAIA, struck a deep and powerful chord with many people.

 Thankfully, social media is changing how we approach and carry on with this most recent situation.

 

We will be Proactive

SWAIA culture will not change. It moves forward with the notion that everyone is replaceable for a 2-day annual event. This is not true for SFIM. SWAIA has fiscal problems and lacks knowledge about cultivating a good work environment (the background information is below). However, there is a trusted visionary available now.

 There have been many conversations about what made John resign and if he’d be reinstated. But, over the course of a few days, encouragement and major support have shifted the focus of a large group of supporters.

 All of whom support creating a (new) Market for the People, by the People.

 Here are reasons of how a new market will improve the current status of Native Art Markets:

  • - To restructure how an organizational Board and the Native artist community work with one another. This would create a form of direct artist involvement in the decisions of the Board.
  • - To reorganize how the whole staff works with artists, changing the focus of the organization on the artists and not the organization’s own branding.
  • - To rework a Native arts market’s relationship with the City of Santa Fe that is benefiting for the artists.
  • - To create an organization and market that is fiscally responsible and doesn’t take unnecessary risks with the generous donations of supporters.
  • - Ultimately, we want a new market that is stable in both organization and structure so that Native artists will have a livelihood for generations from now.

 

A positive movement is taking place for the Native artists within the Native art market.

 SIGN THIS PETITION declaring your support toward A NEW MARKET/ OUR MARKET led by John Torres Nez.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + ++ + + + + + + 

 

 This is a breakdown of what took place between March 31st- April 7th via social media:

  • - John sent his formal resignation to the Board the weekend before he posted his Open Letter on Facebook on Monday, March 31st.
  • - The SWAIA Staff went on furlough to working a 4-day work week. This 20% pay reduction came with a stripping of their benefits and was effective immediately.
  • - The public sent their support, shock, dismay, and/or condolences to John.
  • - Artists support varies: Artists began to question whether or not to pay their booth fees. And since last week, some artists have chosen to take back their donations for the SWAIA Live Auction Gala while some choose to keep their donations with SWAIA. There are artists still awaiting more information about how this will truly affect SFIM in August 2014.
  • - Public support varies: There was a push of support to retain John in his COO position. There are others in the public that continue to support SWAIA despite the issue at hand.
  • - Two public announcements came from John via Facebook.
  • - Two press releases came from SWAIA via Facebook.

 

WHAT IS APPARENT IS THIS:

1) There have been “red flags”:

  • - The dual leadership of COO and CDO is an ideal model that can work if both positions are open to a transparent partnership and have equal support from the Board.
  • - The current CDO hasn’t been effective at all, hence the financial status now.
  • - Staff has been unethically treated by the CDO.
  • - John informed the Board of financial problems and SWAIA’s systemic problems.
  • - This is well documented and the Board didn’t act in the best interest of the organization.
  • - The COO had absolutely no support from the Board. 

What can we (the beneficiaries) do about this matter?

File a complaint form against SWAIA. There is a division within the Attorney General’s office for non-profits. Here is the link to the Attorney General’s Charities Division Page. Go to Submit a Complaint.

 2) There is a structural problem with the SWAIA Board. It is a systemic issue that doesn’t allow for a positive change.

Where did this Board-problem begin?

  • - The Bylaws don’t support transparency.
  • - The Board is self-feeding. There is no constituency they feel they have to speak or be accountable to.
  • - SWAIA Members who have paid a membership fee can recommend names of potential candidates for the Board for consideration. Members can request to sit in on meetings, usually regarding superficial concerns only; Meetings concerning “personnel, legal or sensitive management issues” may be closed to the SWAIA members.
  • - Artists have to buy memberships. Less than 10 are members.
  • - There are no Board nominations from the artist membership at large or from the public.
  • - The lack of nominations from the artist community at large permits a risky management toward the artist community.
  • - As of now, three 2-year terms are the maximum for a SWAIA Board member. Four of those six years can be spent as an Executive Committee member. The Executive Committee is made up of the Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer.
  • - However, once someone is allowed to run/ campaign for a Board position, this could change. 

The SWAIA Board culture has been unstable for years. There have been seven directors in the fifteen years prior to 2007, when Bruce Bernstein was made director. He hired John as Director of Artist Services and as Deputy Director, and they instituted many positive changes. And that positivity continued to evolve under John's leadership in 2012.

So what does that say about the SWAIA Board to let its most promising Chief Operating Officer, who rose within the organization, resign after 18 months? 

What can we do about this matter?

SWAIA needs to reinstate John, to bring in a new Board, to change their Bylaws, and replace the CDO. But, sadly, we know these artists’ demands will not be met.

 

THE RESOLVE? See above, 'We will be Proactive'

 

Letter to
Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, Inc. SWAIA Board of Directors & Stakeholders
In light of the press release posted on April 4th, 2014, it is clear that you are unwilling to take seriously the desires and concerns of the artists; the beneficiaries and the essential core of the “Santa Fe Indian Market.” Therefore, we, the undersigned artists and Native arts supporters, declare our full support of the positive movement toward creating a new Market led by John Torres Nez.