Southwestern Association for Indian Arts partners with Native-owned blockchain registry to combat fraud

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down festivals and gatherings across the country, including the famed Santa Fe Indian Market.

As a result, Santa Fe, N.M.-based Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA), the organization that sponsors the event, took the market online, opening a new frontier for many artists, while at the same time creating a whole new host of problems, especially around authenticity.

“We saw a lot of success with our virtual market, but we had to think about how we protect our artists from infringement,” SWAIA Executive Director Kimberly Peone told Tribal Business News. “We had to think: How do we come alongside our artists as an organization and help them?”

SWAIA has found a potential solution in the Imprint Art Registry, a blockchain-based registry. Solana Beach, Cali.-based Imprint LLC bills itself as the “first secure global art registry” meant to provide artists with a way of certifying their work so their pieces can securely transfer from owner to owner.

Through the SWAIA partnership, Imprint allows Native artists to subscribe to the service and create a digital certificate of authenticity that follows a piece of art from buyer to buyer to reduce counterfeiting and fraud.

Imprint founder Ruth-Ann Thorn, a Rincon Band of Luiseno artist and filmmaker, called the registry a way for artists to “step into the modern age.”

“This is all about creating longevity and authenticity,” Thorn told Tribal Business News. “We’re creating this online registry for artists to record and protect their intellectual property, as well as provide a historical document.”

Artists and galleries can register for $15 per month, while collectors can register and track art titles for free. SWAIA offers its artists a complimentary four months of the service. So far, about 300 creators have registered for the site, Thorn said.

Under that membership, artists can register as many works of art as they please.

“Now if you’re selling to an end-buyer, you have an ability to transfer a certificate of authenticity to the buyer,” Thorn said. “As a buyer, you know that the art is made by a Native American artist, not created by someone out of Indonesia.”

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