New York-based handcraft organization working to help Oaxacan artisans in crisis


Friends of Oaxacan Folk Art (FOFA) supports the preservation and promotion of the rich folk art traditions of Oaxaca, Mexico, which historically have been passed on from generation to generation. These traditions are threatened by economic challenges in the region that significantly impact the folk art community.

FOFA’s programs are designed to provide:

Public exposure (both in Mexico and the US) to raise awareness and appreciation of these vibrant art forms;

Encouragement and support to young Oaxacan folk artists (artesanos) to strengthen their identity as artists, innovators, and stewards of ancestral techniques and designs;

Assistance in pursuing and refining their ancestors’ crafts while generating a sustainable livelihood, thus preserving their folk art traditions for generations to come; and

Enhancement of artesanos’ market opportunities through workshops, a directory on FOFA’s website in which they are featured and their contact information provided, assistance in planning folk art-based itineraries in Oaxaca, and folk art sales and other events.

The Friends of Oaxacan Folk Art (FOFA) has launched its first of several programs to support Oaxacan folk artists who are facing tremendous financial hardships due to the global pandemic’s severe impact on tourism. FOFA has invited all 165 winners and honorable mention recipients in its five young artists’ competitions  (2008, 2011, 2013, 2016 and 2018) to receive a grant of 3,000 Mexican pesos (approximately $140 USD at the current exchange rate) by participating in an online photographic exhibition of their work, entitled: “Oaxacan Artesanos in the Time of COVID.”    To qualify for the grant, artesanos need to submit a digital photo to FOFA that conveys their experience of, or feelings about, the pandemic. The photo can be of (1) an existing piece of their art, or one created for this exhibition; or (2) an image conveying how they are continuing to work at their craft during the pandemic. They must also submit a brief written description of the subject matter. Here is a link to the invitation.   Submissions have come in steadily since the project was announced, and cash awards have already reached artesanos in Oaxaca.   Photo of Anakarem López González, black clay ceramicist in San Bartolo Coyotopec  (Honorable mention in Ceramics, 2008, 2011, 2016)  

  “We vigorously attempted to find all the artesanos with whom we have collaborated in the past, 165 in all since 2008,” said FOFA founder and president Arden Rothstein. “We’re thrilled that so many have responded to our grant offer already, and we expect to hear from many more before the June 30th deadline.”   FOFA has received heart-felt expressions of appreciation from the artesanos, who are almost exclusively reliant on direct sales to individuals or to shop and gallery owners who travel to Oaxaca to buy their pieces. “When tourism grinds to a halt for an extended period of time, the folk artists’ incomes suffer enormously. There is also a profound threat to the sustainability of generations-long Oaxacan folk art traditions that FOFA is committed to preserving and promoting,” said Arden Rothstein.   Please consider following FOFA’s new Instagram page where the exhibition photos will begin to appear in early July. FOFA’s catalog photographer and member of our Advisory Board, Otto Piron, is responsible for launching FOFA’s Instagram presence, and he is posting images of beautiful pieces from our past young artists’ contests daily. For those who are not Instagram users, FOFA will offer an alternative opportunity to view the artwork that will be announced in our next newsletter.  If you are interested in purchasing any of the pieces on view now, or that will be part of the July exhibition, please contact us at [email protected] for the the artists’ contact information.   The above image of Anakarem López González and the two following are examples of submissions we have received from the young artesanos.    Photo of Rolando Lazo Mendoza, tapete weaver from Teotitlán del Valle (Honorable mention in textiles, 2011)  

Photo of Ángela Estefany Xilotl Cruz, San Martín Tilcajete  (Honorable mention in Decorative painting of woodcarving, 2016)

FOFA is also working on a “Phase Two” response to the pandemic that addresses the long-term impact of cratered tourism on artesanos‘ livelihoods.

Oaxaca is a folk art paradise in which artists create the most extraordinary spectrum of crafts in all of Mexico. Their works are inseparable from their lives — a blend of daily experience, indigenous myths and legends, pre- and post-conquest patterns, and the region’s natural environment. Artistic traditions are passed along within a particular family or village, interpreted by each new generation not as static blueprints but as evolving individual reflections on place, time, and culture.  


To learn about the rich spectrum of Oaxaca’s folk arts, and the artists who create them, click here


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