MAIDEN ROCK, Wis. — Of the 180 artists from 50 countries participating in the 2019 International Folk Art Market in Sante Fe, N.M., only six received the coveted Community Impact Award on July 11.
One of them was Multicolores, a Guatemalan-based nonprofit organization founded by Mary Anne Wise and Jody Slocum of Cultural Cloth in Maiden Rock.
“The Community Impact Award celebrates artist groups who have made a difference in their communities through their creative vision,” Wise said. “We are pleased that our efforts have been recognized by the International Folk Art Market, which is the world’s most rigorously juried folk art event.”
More than 700 global artisans applied for the 180 spots open in this year’s International Folk Art Market. The average booth at the market earned $20,000.
“That might not sound like a lot of money to you and me,” Wise said, “but when you consider the cost of living in Guatemala, this is a huge deal.”
Wise and Slocum began training Guatemalan women in rug hooking in 2009, and it did not take long to see the changes that were taking place because of the economic and social benefits of the project.
“We have witnessed the effects of economic empowerment upon the lives of the artists,” Wise said. “We have seen firsthand when women are empowered, their self-perception changes. They begin to view their role in the world differently.”
The change isn’t limited to the artists making the rugs, according to Wise.
“This change has a ripple effect upon her family that extends into her community,” she explained. “Women reinvest in their families. They focus on educating their children. In addition, women who are economically empowered find their voices and become participants in solving the social issues affecting their communities.”
The success of cooperatives like Multicolores has changed the lives of many in Guatemala.
“Life is not a bed of roses for the men either,” Wise said, “so they appreciate that the women are taking some of the financial pressure off of them. The men start relieving some of the domestic duties to make space for the women, so that they can keep working. Then the children start to perceive their mother differently and their parents’ roles differently.”
The women in the Multicolores cooperative in Guatemala have drawn the attention of community members.
“Other women, who are not involved in our project in these small communities, want in,” Wise said, “because they see life changing.”