courtesy John Torres-Nez
The successful 2013 Santa Fe Indian Market will go down as the first, and last, under Torres-Nez's stewardship.

A Letter to SWAIA Artists Regarding the Departure of John Torres-Nez

SWAIA Board of Directors

The following is a news release provided by the Southwestern Association of Indian Arts (SWAIA) :

Dr. John Torres-Nez resigned from his position as Chief Operating Officer via email to the Board of Directors on Sunday March 30, 2014 at 7:13 am. This came as a complete shock to each of the Board of Directors. There was no discussion of this before his email. There has been much speculation, but this is the information.

John made this decision. He was not forced or coerced into resignation by anyone. The board was notified on March 30th and John posted his open letter on his personal Facebook page on March 31st. the board reached out to him, but to no avail.

RELATED: Indian Market 2013: "Leaner, Meaner, Hipper, Cooler," Says SWAIA Head

This is a critical time for SWAIA preparing for the 2014 Indian Market. We want to assure all of you that things are going to continue moving forward. Artists are essential to the success of Market. Artists are the heart of Santa Fe Indian Market. The 2014 Santa Fe Indian Market will go on.

We also want to convey a brief history on how the organization was restructured under John’s leadership and guidance.

It was determined that the traditional model of a lone Director (ED) at the helm was not the way to run SWAIA. The roles and responsibly of the ED were too much for one person. With integral input and guidance from John, the Board adopted a team based management model. This included dividing the Executive Director role into two positions: Chief Operations Officer (COO), and Chief Development Officer (CDO). the two directors reported directly to the Board with COO focusing on the operations of Indian Market, and CDO securing funding via memberships, sponsors and donors. Both positions share responsibility for managing and running the day-to-day activities of SWAIA.

The Board was confident in John and his ability to lead the organization, and enthusiastically appointed John COO in September 2012. John, a consulting firm, and the Board put the wheels in motion to find a development director. In mid 2013, the position was finalized and advertised. After narrowing down the selection, John and a committee of board members interviewed the finalists. Ultimately, John and the Board felt Dr. Charlene Porsild was the most qualified individual for the position and offered her the position of CDO. She accepted the job a month before the 2013 Indian Market.

In the last 6 months, the Board and both directors , have worked hard, fine tuning the organization and moving to improve SWAIA's focus and direction. Both John and Charlene provided great ideas and changes to better Santa Fe Indian Market, with enthusiastic board support.

In the past few months, SWAIA has experienced cash flow difficulties, many of which are seasonal, predictable, and not unusual. The Board determined that economies and a four day work week would increase the likelihood that SWAIA would be in a strong cash position at the end of the year. In addition, to avoid this scenario in the future, a line of credit was established with a local bank; lines of credit are commonly used in a wide variety of businesses. Since SWAIA has no tangible assets, two board members personally signed a guarantee. This generosity is testimony to the commitment the board has to the success of Santa Fe Indian Market, and to the staff that makes it happen.

The board has done what it is tasked to do - develop a more suitable organizational structure, provide guidance, oversight, and resources so SWAIA can move forward.

Now there is work to do, for the staff, the board, and certainly the artists, because Santa Fe Indian market 2014 is coming!

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bullbear's picture
Submitted by bullbear on
It seems that SWAIA needs stability in more fronts than one. Financing is the hub and all operations are spokes from this key point. I estimate that 95% of non-profit organizations suffer from board of directors who choose not to be actively raising funds and instead expect the development director to be the sole staff member generating funds. Wrong. It seems that board of directors prefer to serve as administrators, when in reality their major responsibility is networking in the business world, knocking on corporate doors, making cold calls for fund seeking purposes, and always knowing what successful non-profits are doing that can be incorporated into their organization. Boards may consist of individuals who have PhD's, but I would prefer to have someone with a high school diploma who is not timid when it comes to asking for donations from CEO's, Presidents and CFO's of successful multi-million dollar corporations. If board members are only "sitting" members, they are dead weight and need to move on. In short, development directors can only be expected to be as successful if the board is always busy picking fruit, too.

saninative's picture
Submitted by saninative on
I support the SWAIA Board of Directors decision in moving the organization forward. If individuals feel they can no longer dedicate the time and energy required to make this event a success, then the organization is better served by their decision to move on. In my 22 years exhibiting in the world's largest Indian Art Show, I have seen many changes some positive and some not so good. The fact of the matter is Indian Market basically has a life of its own and it will go on regardless of who is at the helm. Good luck to Mr. Torres and thank you for your time and dedication. Thank you Board of Directors for all the work you do. From first hand experience I know it can be a thankless job, but the intangible rewards are yours to be had especially in August. Sincerely, John Gonzales (San Ildefonso Pueblo)