November, 2020 (Cancelled due to Covid- please see below)
Feria Maestros del Arte (English – Masters of Art Fair) is a non profit organization and annual three-day event held to support Mexican handcrafts and folk art in Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico. As an organization, it is a recognized in both Mexico and the United States. Unlike other fairs of this type, invited participants are not charged booth fees or percentages, and are even afforded transport and accommodations with area families. The Feria has grown from thirteen artisan participants to over eighty. The main focus is to support the continuing existence of Mexican folk art, which is disappearing in many places due to migration and industrialization. Volunteers work to find artisans, raise funds, set up and take down and all operations during the event.
The three day event is held every November, with the main attraction being stalls of merchandise brought by Mexican artisans for sale. As of 2015, there are were over 80 participating artisans, from various Mexican states, especially Chiapas, Oaxaca, Michoacán and Jalisco. However, there have been representatives from as far north as Chihuahua and south to Yucatán. The wares vary from many kinds of pottery such as bruñido (burnished), petallillo, pineapple forms from Michoacan, recreations of pre Hispanic pieces, amate paper, alpaca cutlery, alebrijes from Oaxaca, wicker furniture, dolls, Catrina figures and numerous textiles, especially from Oaxaca and Chiapas. To date, the event has been popular mostly with foreign buyers, both living in and visiting Mexico, but it does attract a number of Mexican buyers as well. Many of the buyers are folk art collectors.
The artisans who participate are invited by the organization and change each year. These artisans are vetted by representatives of the Feria, with visits to workshops to see what is done, the quality and the make sure the wares are made by the artisans themselves. Some are already well known in Mexican folk art circles, such as those featured in works such as the Grand Masters of Mexican Folk Art, but others are completely unknown. Some are families who have done the craft for generations. As the purpose is to support the artisans, participants are not charged booth fees or a percentage of sales. Transportation of artisans is paid for by the Feria as well, with the same being housed by volunteer families in their homes. These families are mostly expats living in and near Chapala, and they not only provide beds, but also food and social outlets. The organization states that it helps to create inter-cultural bonds, and for many of the artisans, their first contact with the world outside their home. Some of the artisans are illiterate and many never have been out of their hometowns.