Colonia San Antonio, San Miguel de Allende

Rodarte bazaar brings artists and artisans, students, and the public full circle this weekend in San Miguel

Zara Fernandez, director of the Instituto Allende, stands before the site that will contain the Rodarte artist and artisan bazaar this weekend. Revenues from the bazaar help fund art teachers and art supplies sent out into the community.

“What goes around comes around.”

The expression has always carried a negative connotation. Long before Justin Timberlake grabbed the idiom by the tail and turned it into a hit song of bad love and betrayal with the help of Scarlett Johansson treating each other badly.

But karma has two sides.

The flip side is that doing good comes back around, too.

Which brings us to Rodarte.

No, not the California-based fashion line. This Rodarte is the closely curated gathering of Mexican artists and craftspeople that will take place this weekend just off the Ancha de San Antonio, at No. 30.

Last week over coffee at the Panina bakery on Sterling Dickinson, I got the lowdown on Rodarte from Zara Fernandez, director of Institute Allende. She is also the moving force behind Rodarte and has been since her father Rodolfo Fernández turned over the reins to her nearly a decade ago.

Let’s note that Rodarte is quite different from the arts & crafts bazaar that usually occupies this space on the Ancha. While that one offers goods with a touristy appeal, their provenance isn’t always clearly Mexican and can often be the result of mass production rather than artistry.

Rodarte is about individual artists and craftspeople and specialized artist collectives, like the one that crafts diaries and notebooks from their own handmade paper. Each artist is vetted to ensure quality and originality.

So, Rodarte has been around – in one name and location or another – since the Institute’s founding in 1950.

Its purpose has always been twofold: present artists to the public and raise funds for arts education, often in schools and orphanages out in the countryside.

Thus the name: Rodarte. It is a combination of words that roughly translates into “a circling back around of art.” Rodarte presents artists, the public sees and buys their goods, and funds raised from the event are returned to the community in the form of art classes, mostly for children and teens.

Sampling of products from Rodarte:

Funds go to pay teachers and buy art supplies.

See? What goes around comes around. You couldn’t ask for a more perfect circle of life.

“Social work ah always been a huge part of Allende,” says Zara Fernandez who more or less grew up in the art school co-founded by her grandfather and later run by her father. “It is a part of my own formation.”

She pulls out her phone and pulls up a picture of her father sitting in a classroom surrounded by grade school students. The picture was taken on a day when her father was out in the campo teaching and art class.

“This inspires me,” says Fernandez.

She has maintained the tradition and has plans for expanding the reach of the degree-granting art school into the community. The institute will be bringing art to schools and an orphanage (Casa Corazon) as always – well, always before Covid shut the world down.

With the new year, the Institute will launch the School of Stirling Dickinson which 10 students with portfolios will undergo two years of intensive classes for preparation for university in the arts, if that is their chosen path. “Hopefully we can expand to more children and more professors,” adds Fernandez.

In a sense, the school is a revival. Dickinson left the art school he founded to help Felipe Cossío del Pomar,  Enrique Fernández Martínez and his wife Nell Harris to create the Instituto Allende in 1950.

In future Rodartes – they will come more often than in the past – Fernandez wants to create workshops with some of the artisans which can be attended by the public during the bazaar.

This weekend, Fernandez has invited 40 artists and artisans from around Mexico to present their creations.

More products to expect this weekend at Rodarte:

“There will be jewelry, fashions, accessories, candles, shawls, oil paintings, printmakers, acrylic, accessories for birds, pet accessories, kombucha and other fermentations, graphic designers, leather goods, hand-painted ceramics … a little bit of everything,” she says.  Adding that products will be available in all price points – if you only want to spend 100 pesos, you can find something of interest.

Artists and artisans will represent San Miguel as well as Guanajuato, Mexico City, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Puebla, Argentina, Spain, and Japan.

There are two Rodarte events this year. Next year, she says, as many as eight or nine are possible. Fernandez sees the artisan bazaar as a way to introduce new artists to the community, even if it means adding some donated spaces for worth newcomers.

“We want to make a beautiful space for artists,” she adds.

The Rodarte artisans bazaar will be Saturday and Sunday, October 8 and 9, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.


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