After 21 years of introducing new American Indian artists to the public, the Totah Festival remains in its original location without much growth.
Festival founder Claudine Riddle believes there is a need for the festival to expand by allowing access to more artists and allowing for more space for the annual powwow that coincides with the art event.
The Farmington Civic Center rooted the festival in Farmington, and it remains an ideal location, centrally located in downtown. However, the civic center is not large enough to accommodate more than 100 artists, which is exactly how many were invited to sell their wares at this year's Labor Day weekend event.
The quality of those artists is unsurpassed when it comes to American Indian art, and many travel from all of the Four Corners' states to participate. Unfortunately, because of space limitations it is difficult for the more than 10,000 visitors to get access to each booth. The area is cramped for both artists and spectators.
If a potential buyer is unable to access a booth, they might get frustrated and simply leave without spending money. This is counterproductive for a festival that is dedicated to promoting American Indian art.
Event Co-Chairman Shawn Lyle said that the board spent the past few years focusing on quality and customer service, but not growth because of limited space.
Riddle believes that the event should be expanded. She said there could be 50 more artists participating in
One suggestion from Riddle is to block off downtown streets around the civic center to allow for an outside sales venue.
"It could be as big (as the Gallup arts show). It could be turned into four days, and huge," she said.
George Francis, an American Indian artist who co-chairs the event with Lyle, said that growth would be nice, but it is the board's belief that quality must remain a priority.
We believe there is a balance that needs to be met for continued success of the Totah Festival. Yes, quality is important, but there are quality American Indian artists who were not allowed in because of limited space.
The venue is nice with an ambiance of flair, but there might be a better location for this type of event, or perhaps the idea of expanding it into the streets is the best proposal yet for the festival's growth.
The city and the board of directors should listen to Riddle and perhaps follow her vision. She founded the festival and continues to support American Indian art. She knows the art that is out there and she has great ideas of how to promote it.
It's a wonderful festival and one of Farmington's many celebrated annual events.
Let's nourish it for all it's worth, which is much.