Native Village 
Youth and Education News

November, 2012

IAIA, 'birthplace of contemporary Native art,' celebrates 50th anniversary
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New Mexico: The Institute of American Indian Arts has turned 50.

"We consider this place the birthplace of contemporary Native art," said IAIA President Robert Martin. "This event gives us an opportunity to really look at our past, our history and our contributions and share those all, not only with our current staff and students, but with the community at large."

The institute was founded in Santa Fe in 1962 under George Boyce, Lloyd Kiva New and others.  It first opened on the Santa Fe Indian School campus. New said they wanted to push Native art beyond the narrow, traditional borders that defined it at the time.

"At the IAIA, we said to the artists, `We're not going to tell you what to do or how to translate your world,' " New recalled in 1999.  "IAIA said two things, publicly, that were great. We said, `We're not here to make you into something you aren't.' And the other thing was, `Don't let anyone tell you, you can't be what you want to be.' "

Ryan S. Flahive, IAIA's archivist, said New's artistic and educational approach is embedded in the school's operations. "This could be called the Lloyd Kiva New School of Art; it was his philosophy," Flahive said.

Flahive has authored a new book, Celebrating Difference: Fifty Years of Contemporary Native Arts at IAIA, 1962-2012. He wrote that the school enrolled anyone who submitted an example of their work.





Matsuri Beyond Generation Tabi Moccasin, Eri Imamura (Japanese), 07, Beads and buckskin.

"We didn't care anything about grades," Flahive quotes James McGrath, the school's first assistant art director. "That was completely unimportant. If they sent in a poem, or a drawing, or a painting, or wanted to do music good. That's why we want you there."

(That policy has since changed.)

In 1975, the Institute of American Indian Arts became a two-year college offering several degrees. In 2001 it was accredited to award four-year baccalaureate degrees. As one of only three congressionally charted colleges, it has evolved from an arts school to a combination of arts and liberal-arts training school.

Cedar Ring by Jacqueline Smith (Navajo), 09.

After spending years sharing and renting space from both the Indian School and the College of Santa Fe (now the Santa Fe University of Art and Design), IAIA moved to its current locale in 2000.

The school has always fostered an environment where students from different cultures can come together and share ideas and work collaboratively. Roughly 73% of its students are Native. The campus is open to anyone who wishes to apply.

Flahive, who is not Native, said somehow it all works. "We are consistently trying to connect with other indigenous cultures. It's a pluralistic microcosm we put all these different types of people in one room and it ends up OK. It ends up OK."

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