Tasting notes with:
CEO, International Folk Art Market.
El Farol, Santa Fe.
Mezcal White Negroni (mezcal, sweet vermouth, apperol).
Recommended food pairing:
An antipasto plate with salami, cheese, crostini, and roasted red peppers.
Music/art pairing recommendation:
Music: Maria Muldaur’s “Midnight at the Oasis.” Art: The Jungle by Wifredo Lam.
Hopeful, positive, not quite exhausted yet.
What is the biggest challenge you face this year?
Ensuring that the market is successful in every way.
What is the biggest challenge you face tomorrow?
What to wear while introducing one of the awardees at the Mayor’s Arts Awards!
What was your first job?
When I was around 14, I delivered bundles of laundry in a three-wheel box bicycle for a laundromat in Brooklyn called Aquamat, owned by a Hungarian Holocaust survivor. He filled up the bike with bundles, and even when it seemed full he would say, “I give you more,” which became his nickname. I got 15 cents for each small bundle, and 25 cents for each large bundle. It was the worst job ever, but I made $35 a week.
What did it teach you?
Endurance, and I probably didn’t realize it until many years later, that whatever your path or destiny is, is a beautiful thing. It’s not that one path is better or worse. I went to school, to work, I had money in my pocket, my mom cooked me dinner. It’s not as bad as so many others.
What images keep you company in the space where you work?
A combination of Cuban folk art, African sculptures called Nkisis that are power figures from Congo, and a few pieces of contemporary Cuban art. And an Uzbek chess set.
What is most rewarding for you about working with folk artists?
Knowing that the work we are doing with them is helping them to improve their economic standing. What they do with their profits, whether it’s drilling a well, or fixing up a school. The appreciation they show us. And, as a former working artist, I appreciate their dedication to their work.
What does the future of folk art look like in a globalized world?
If there is a goal to sustain yourself as an artist, then innovation is a big part of that. Traditions have to change with the times, because artists are the chroniclers of our times.
What should change?
The public’s perception of folk art as something less than art with a capital “A.” It takes the same commitment to skill and labor, and it is rooted in traditions.
What should stay the same?
That the folk art traditions remain connected to tradition, otherwise it stops being folk art and becomes something else.
What would you do if you didn’t do what you do?
I would’ve liked to be a musician. And a boat captain. Sail the seas playing a guitar. But really, you have to listen to what comes to you and follow it. And for me, it was always working with artists and institutions.
What comes next?
Ensuring the future of the Folk Art Market, and the expansion of the market, because it’s a great model for changing the world through folk art.