With support from the National Endowment for the Arts’ Folk & Traditional Arts program, NEFA funded several aspects of artist participation for the inaugural Indian Market at the Abbe Museum, and hopes to see this continue for the second market in May, 2019. 

Dawn Spears' (Narragansett/Choctaw) sneakers

The inaugural Abbe Museum Indian Market 2018 has come and gone, and what an exhilarating ride it has been, getting to what I truly believe was one of the most creatively planned events in a small New England town.  Bar Harbor, Maine, or “Bah Hah Ba” as it is pronounced locally, is now in the minds of Native artists AND collectors alike.  The Abbe Museum very thoughtfully planned a beneficial experience for all who attended, and I am happy to say that I was a part of the launch of this exciting new market, which brought in over 5,000 visitors.

As the market producer, I thoroughly enjoyed combing through the countless applications submitted for over 70 spots, which was the beginning of many new relationships with artists across the continent. I do count those moments as blessings, because I feel that all the connections that we make in our lifetime are truly important.  Building this market - and how it would represent the Wabanaki and all of us as the indigenous “first peoples” in this New England town - was very important to me.  I am very grateful for the overwhelming support of the artists, NEFA, and the Abbe Museum in trusting me in my pursuit of that vision. 

The Abbe Museum Indian Market rocked it for 2018!  Opening night was a hit with an opening reception held at the Museum, a time to mingle with the artists, view exhibits, sample delicious food, view our accessory show, and bask in the unique sound of vocalist Jennifer Kreisberg (Tuscarora). Jennifer’s voice is so deep and impactful; she has a gift that needs to be shared.  The night was not over as the film festival began in the nearby Reel Cinema.  

Saturday was a whirlwind. With a huge support team of volunteers, the Abbe staff, and Wallace Tent, we embarked on the Bar Harbor Village Green at 7:00 am to set up for a 10:00 am opening.  Amazingly, the forecasted rain never arrived, providing us with a day-long event, that included a market, entertainment, a fashion show, ongoing artist demonstrations, and more entertainment!

Part of the Fashion Show at the Indian Market

The fashion show was a highlight for many who attended. All of the designers share their heritage drawing inspiration from their region’s culture and traditions.

Maine's Wabanaki husband and wife team, Jason Brown and Donna Decontie-Brown of Decontie & Brown draw inspiration from their Penobscot tribal heritage and their experience in the luxury jewelry industry to create beautiful trendsetting designs with a Native American influence.

Loren and Valentina Aragon are the founders of ACONAV, a Native American owned and operated couture fashion brand, based in Phoenix, AZ. The brand celebrates the strength and empowerment of women through positive expressions in designs that tie culture to modern style. The brand's purpose is to properly and respectfully represent a part of Native America in fashion.

Decontie & Brown designs in the Indian Market Fashion Show

I was humbled and honored that in addition to my role as producer, my work was part of the fashion show with these major designers.

In an “east meets west” collaboration Decontie & Brown and ACONAV were also selected as the Market’s featured artists. Their collaborative design was used throughout the market including on shirts and programs. I look forward to seeing a new design from next year’s featured artists, which will once again showcase vibrant artistry from both sides of the U.S.

Saturday night included more activities, with the film festival and a night of Native women comedians at the Criterion Theatre.  While behind the scenes, NEFA hosted an artist gathering, which provided a space for unwinding and for artist networking. 

Sunday proved to be a great day, artists and visitors alike reported the overall event to be a success.  We obviously had the ancestors looking down upon us and supporting us as we made this monumental step to represent Native American Art in the Northeast.

Looking ahead we are already thinking about what is next and how we can improve the experience that artists, volunteers, staff and attendees have at this event in the future. The possibilities are endless. Mark your calendars May 17 – 19, 2019!

Hawk Henries' (Nipmuc) flutes
Geo Neptune (Passamaquoddy) poses with their baskets

Dawn Spears (Narragansett/Choctaw) is the director of the Northeast Indigenous Arts Alliance (NIAA). Prior to that she was the Native Arts Program Manager at NEFA. NIAA is a membership organization whose mission is to strengthen and support the Northeast Indigenous artist community by providing opportunities that will promote, protect, preserve, and continue the artistic vitality of work in the region. A believer in the preservation and education of Native culture and traditions, Dawn has been teaching and demonstrating for over 25 years in many forms of art and still works creatively, exhibiting and selling at local galleries and markets.

Photos by Adrienne Petrillo/NEFA