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Mission and History

“We have come a long way from our early days as a high school funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to where we are now—a world-class institution devoted to creating, interpreting, and preserving ground-breaking contemporary Indigenous arts.”
Dr. Robert Martin (Cherokee Nation)

IAIA President

Land Acknowledgement

The Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) respectfully acknowledges that it is located on the traditional Puebloan lands of the Tanoan and Keres speaking Peoples. We honor and thank them for their graciousness as stewards of the land.


The mission of the Institute of American Indian Arts is “to empower creativity and leadership in Indigenous arts and cultures through higher education, lifelong learning, and community engagement.” This mission is more than a statement. It is the driving force behind all that we do and the guiding principle for our dedicated faculty and staff.

IAIA Strategic Plan 2025

IAIA Strategic Plan 2025


Our vision is “to be the premier educational institution elevating Indigenous arts and cultures across the globe.” IAIA’s curricula, facilities, faculty, and staff are dedicated to preparing students for success and leadership. Our Indigenous-centered curricula provide students with educational experiences that fulfill their intellectual, social, physical, and spiritual needs. Through innovative pedagogy, critical inquiry, and intercultural exchange, our students receive a high-quality education and become part of a diverse, intergenerational community.

IAIA exemplifies creative excellence and what can be accomplished through an Indigenous approach to academics, community involvement, and museum practices. By promoting and expanding access to contemporary Indigenous arts through educational programming, research, and exhibitions, we are empowering Native creators and introducing non-Native audiences to Indigenous peoples’ vitality, resilience, and contemporaneity.

Beyond our arts-focused curricula, IAIA is a 1994 Land-Grant institution. Our Land-Grant Program provides training and outreach rooted in Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) that promote tribal sovereignty and self-determination.


Strong values make IAIA a place where creativity and scholarship flourish. Our community promotes well-being for ourselves, each other, and our environment, recognizing that good health and contentment are crucial to success. Our most revered values are:

  • Collaboration: Working together for student success
  • Excellence: Upholding high standards for students, faculty, and staff
  • Creativity: Encouraging bold expression in art and life
  • Respect: Fostering the appreciation of cultures, perspectives, and identities through diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility
  • Integrity: Expecting and honoring reciprocity, accountability, honesty, and responsibility to ourselves, our community, and our world
  • Leadership: Cultivating leaders in Indigenous arts, cultures, and communities
  • Stewardship: Taking care of IAIA’s material and human resources
  • Sustainability: Protecting the earth and our environment

Creativity is Our Tradition

Many of the country’s most illustrious contemporary Native American artists, poets, writers, musicians, and cultural leaders are IAIA alums, while others are affiliated with IAIA as faculty, staff, visiting artists, and scholars. Among these are Fritz Scholder (Luiseño), Joy Harjo (Mvskoke Nation) ’68, David Bradley (Chippewa) ’79, Dan Namingha (Hopi-Tewa) ’69, Allan Houser (Chiracahua Apache), T.C. Cannon (Kiowa, Caddo), Layli Longsoldier (Oglala Lakota) ’09, Linda Lomahaftewa (Hopi, Choctaw) ’65, Cara Romero (Chemehuevi) ’05, Cannupa Hanska Luger (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara) ’11, George Rivera (Pojoaque Pueblo) ’84, Dr. Jessie Ryker-Crawford (White Earth Anishinaabe) ’00, Roxanne Swentzell (Santa Clara Pueblo), Rose Simpson (Santa Clara Pueblo) ’18, Kathleen Wall (Jemez Pueblo) ’14, Patricia Michaels (Taos Pueblo) ’89, and many more.

A Brief History of IAIA

The Institute of American Indian Arts (formally known as the Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture and Arts Development) is one of 37 tribal colleges in the United States. IAIA is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and is a member of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC).

Established as a high school in 1962 under the leadership of Lloyd Kiva New (Cherokee), Dr. George Boyce, and others, IAIA embodied a revolutionary approach to arts education. Now, sixty years later, we continue to fill a vital role as the only fine arts college in the world dedicated to the study of contemporary Native American and Alaskan Native arts.

Over the past six decades, IAIA’s influence on the art world has been monumental. “From the start of the Institute of American Indian Arts, students were encouraged to experiment,” says IAIA President Dr. Robert Martin (Cherokee Nation). “The boundaries were limitless. Our students were taught to develop their artistic style without being bound by tradition or history.” According to Dr. Martin, what makes IAIA a noteworthy institution is its student body, which enriches the campus community with its diversity, creativity, talents, and passion. “What I’ve admired most during my tenure here is observing the evolution of our students’ creativity and the ways in which they learn to take risks and manifest other leadership qualities while advancing their artistic expression.”