IAIA OFFERED its students courses in museum studies even when it was still a high school, before becoming an accredited two-year college in 1975. After the changeover, the institute began offering associate of fine arts degrees in the program. Today, students can earn a bachelors degree in museum studies, and the department has between 30 and 50 students at any given time. “A museum studies program was part of the original plan envisioned by Lloyd Kiva New,” IAIA educator Lara Evans told
Pasatiempo. “We’re examining the possibilities of doing an interdisciplinary masters degree program with combined elements of museum studies and indigenous liberal studies.” Evans teaches art history courses — a degree requirement — to museum studies majors, as well as chairing the department. “It’s a rotating position between different faculty that changes every few years,” she said. “It’s just recently that we went to three faculty members instead of two, and it’s a little easier to rotate out with three people.”
Students begin with introductory courses that include, among other aspects of museology, the history of repatriation, a major issue, particularly regarding indigenous objects in museum collections. Native artifacts, including sacred objects and human remains, were often obtained by dubious means before ethical collection practices were put into place to prevent abuses. “It’s looking at issues of who owns what, why, and how, and examining the history of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act,” Evans said. The act, often shortened to NAGPRA, was enacted by Congress in 1990, two years before the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts was established downtown. “Students also get an introduction to curation and the ethics of working within your own community. There’s also an introduction to collections care, which teaches students about how to care for cultural property. By ‘care’ I mean working in ways that are consistent with cultural practices in addition to museum practices. It’s taking care of objects not just physically but spiritually.”
Students get to work firsthand with objects of art. To facilitate research and education, IAIA, which houses its museum’s holdings on-site, also maintains a small teaching collection. A stroll through the campus buildings and grounds is the way to experience the campus art collection, because that’s where the items are on public display.
In a given semester, staff from MoCNA teach courses on campus, too. “We also have a course in museum education and public awareness. We’ve had our students work on educational projects associated with exhibitions and we also require students to do two internships,” Evans said. “We’ve had a number of students do their internships either here, working with the collection on campus, or at the museum doing installations of exhibits.”
IAIA students also have opportunities to participate in workshops with visiting artists. MoCNA maintains a 400-square-foot studio for use by visiting artists in its Social Engagement Residency, and IAIA has studio space and living quarters available on campus for artists in a residency program that begins this fall. Two artists participate at a time in IAIA’s residency, which is managed by Evans. The resident artists work for a month on individual projects and are expected to do workshops with students and take part in opening and closing receptions at the beginning and end of their residencies. During the closing receptions, the artists give public presentations on their work.
The start of the fall semester brings Glenda McKay (Ingalik-Athabascan) and Jonathan Loretto (CochitíJemez). In October comes Santa Fe-based artist Ed Archie NoiseCat (Shuswap/St’itLimx, Salish) and Dyani White Hawk (Sicangu Lakota). The artists coming in November are Gerald Clarke Jr. (Cahuilla) and James Luna (Pooyukitchum, Ipi, and MexicanAmerican). “Gerald and James know each other,” Evans said. “Their reservations are quite close to one another. We’ve arranged for the two of them to speak as part of SFAI 140.” SFAI 140 is an ongoing series of short talks sponsored by the Santa Fe Art Institute. Luna will also engage in workshops with students in advance of a December symposium on indigenous performance art in which he participates. These six artists are the inaugural group of the program which, according to Evans, will take on a total of 28 artists over the next three years.
Top, from left, student Samantha Tracy (Navajo) working in IAIA’s photo studio; students Duhon James (Navajo) and Tracy installing art in IAIA’s Lloyd Kiva New Welcome Center; below, Prof. Jessie Ryker-Crawford (White Earth Anishinaabe); photos Jason S. Ordaz