The Fondo Nacional para el Fomento de las Artesanías, or National Fund for the Development of Arts and Crafts (FONART) is a dependence of the Secretariat of Social Development, established to promote and protect traditional handcrafts. The agency has four main programmes including artisan training, retail selling and the sponsoring of craft competitions at the local, regional and national level.
FONART was founded in 1974 and since 1995, it has been under the supervision of the Secretariat of Social Development. The overall purpose is to protect and promote traditional Mexican handcrafts, opening national and international markets for craftsmen as many of these workers live on poor, rural and indigenous areas. There are an estimated 8 million artisans working in Mexico. Those who live in impoverished or indigenous areas have priority. However, the agency has been criticised for being inefficient and not meeting the demands of national transparency laws. Currently, it seeks the capacity to authenticate crafts on a national and international level due to competitions from imitations from Asia.
FONART has a buying programme where pieces are purchased directly from artisans at regional centres or through agents that travel to crafts areas periodically. It also buys pieces from different state-run institutions that promote crafts. The acquisition system has five storage centres located in Mexico City.
The agency runs a number of retail stores, all of which are in Mexico City with the exception of one in San Luis Potosí. The best-selling items are ceramics, lacquered items and glasswork. Most products come from Oaxaca, Chiapas and Michoacán. In contrast to most other craft outlets, crafts at the FONART stores are more upmarket and varied.
The problem that the stores have had is that most are not placed in tourist venues. However, recently, the agency has begun to work with the federal Secretariat of Tourism in order to find more ways to sell to international tourists as well as use crafts as to attract tourists to rural areas.