A different, deeper buzz comes from the dining room. Surrounding tables covered with brightly colored cloths, a crowd absorbs the magic of some two hundred pieces of multi-colored folk art: wry wood-carved animals and musicians, and whimsical ceramic lovers among them.
How to choose one manic, elaborately painted insect - - maybe four inches in length - - when a half dozen equally inventive "first cousins" beckon?
In the adjacent living room, Mariana Ram
rez, a Mexican-born and New York based percussionist and her companion play the marimba. The music, upbeat but soulful, exhorts us to be feliz in the Mexican moment.
And keep shopping. On display are carpets, baskets, flashy table mats, figurative paintings, and a gorgeous array of silver jewelry. Many guests, having examined the items for sale, suffer with familiar shopping anxiety: for me? for my daughter-in-law? for my sweet neighbor who collects birds?
By 7:30, when FOFA President Arden Rothstein greets the crowd, some 100 people have joined the party. She reviews some of FOFA's many accomplishments over the decade of its work: four young artist competitions, exhibits, and collector-quality catalogs; hundreds of hours of workshops offered to the artesanos at no cost to help them market and speak about their unique work; and activities in the United States to raise awareness of these special and endangered folk art traditions.
How splendid to enjoy Oaxaca in Brooklyn! To be able to purchase an array of beautifully crafted objects without purchasing a plane ticket! To support young Oaxacan folk artists without showing a passport or being hassled at customs!
Meanwhile, guests are buying raffle tickets and enjoying a buffet of Mexican-style sandwiches and salads. Many pause at the Mezcal table to chat with Jorsand Dias, who is pouring, about the differences between the six mezcals he offers. "Begin with the least complex," Jorsand recommends, and move on from there. A few happy aficionados sample all five. The Mezcals, from Heavy Metal Premium Imports, are a business venture of William Scanlan, a folk art aficionado and a loyal FOFA supporter.
FOFA's support of young folk artists, as Arden reminds the crowd, is more critical than ever in this post-earthquake moment. While most of Oaxaca was not heavily damaged, tourists have been cancelling their reservations; and folk artists' livelihoods are once again at risk. FOFA welcomes new members and new friends wishing to make contributions. The folk arts of Oaxaca are as vibrant as ever, but without patrons they cannot continue to flourish.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!