Visitors to Arizona frequently remark that they would love to find authentic American Indian art, but fear they will end up with cheap imitations while paying genuine prices.
Rest assured. You can purchase real American Indian art – directly from the artisans who crafted it – at Arizona’s art festivals, markets and powwows that take place year-round throughout the state.
At these events, not only do shoppers deal directly with the artists who painstakingly craft each piece, shoppers also experience different cultures through performances, exhibits and delicious food.
Plus, having the opportunity to speak with the artists adds value to the work by connecting stories or experiences to the works, and is far more enjoyable than just picking an item off a shelf.
Following are a number of excellent Arizona events at which to find – and bring home – a piece of native Arizona.
Art Festivals in Arizona’s Desert Regions
In mid-November, head about 30 miles northeast of Phoenix to Fort McDowell for Orme Dam Victory Days. The Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation hosts a fine-arts show at Fort McDowell Casino, as well as a powwow, a golf tournament, and the Fort McDowell Rodeo – which features arts and crafts booths.
In December, put the Pueblo Grande Indian Market on your calendar. Held at Phoenix’s Pueblo Grande Museum, this market features more than 200 Indian artists, chef demonstrations and tours of the Hokoham village – the main attraction at the museum.
New Year’s Day isn’t just for parties; it’s also the day the final installment kicks off for Thunder in the Desert, a 10-day celebration of American Indian culture in Tucson. More than 180 tribes will converge on Rillito Raceway Park for an art show, powwows, great food and other festivities.
In February, don’t miss some of the state’s best-known Indian arts shows.
O’odham Tash, held in Casa Grande, features a rodeo, powwow, parade, traditional ceremonial dances and an art show.
Tucson’s Arizona State Museum hosts the Southwest Indian Art Fair. This fest showcases more than 200 Indian artists, performances, food and both live and silent auctions.
The Tohono O’odham Tribal Rodeo, held west of Sells in the heart of Southern Arizona’s Tohono O’odham Nation, features arts and crafts vendors in addition to thrilling rodeo action.
The Avi Kwa Ame Powwow at the Avi Casino south of Bullhead City offers exciting performances and art along the warm Colorado River coast.
March is fair time in Phoenix and Central Arizona – the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market, that is. Arizona’s largest Indian art fest, and the Heard Museum’s largest event, attracts more than 700 American Indian artists from across the nation, as well as offers performances, food and tours of the museum’s galleries.
Visitors who enjoy both arts and sports can cheer on their favorite cowpuncher at the Mul-Cha-Tha Rodeo and Fair. The rodeo, fair and art fest take place in Sacaton in the Gila River Indian Community.
Don’t miss Arizona’s biggest powwow, which happens at Arizona State University’s Tempe Campus in April. The ASU Powwow features competitions, veterans gourd dance, food and, of course, plenty of artisans.
Art Festivals in Arizona’s Mountain Regions
As the weather starts to warm up in Arizona’s desert regions, the Indian art show action starts to heat up in the state’s higher elevations.
One popular destination for artists: the White Mountains. The Native American Art Festival, held in July in Pinetop-Lakeside features a juried art show showcasing more than 50 of the finest Indian artists working today.
Mix fair fun with the search for the perfect piece of art at two late summer tribal fairs.
During the transition from August to September, the Fort Apache Indian Reservation is the home of the White Mountain Apache Tribal Fair & Rodeo. Experience rodeo events, parades, concerts and carnivals, and don’t miss the opportunity to search for a great piece of art to bring home.
The nation’s largest tribal fair happens each September in the nation’s largest reservation. The Navajo Nation Fair offers rodeos, parades (sometimes with congressmen or even U.S. presidents), powwows, concerts and a large art market.
Rounding out the fall season is the Tuhisma Hopi Arts & Crafts Market. Held in October in the Hopi capitol of Kykotsmovi, this market features some of the best Hopi katsina-doll carvers, basket weavers, jewelers and other artists.
No matter where you head to in Arizona, you’re sure to find authentic American Indian art, as well as the artists who produce these wonderful pieces imbued with culture.