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Bell Edmo Selected as the 2024 IAIA Student of the Year

Mar 7, 2024

Bell Edmo (Pyramid Lake Paiute, Shoshone Bannock, and Blackfeet)

“Hard work pays off. It definitely pays off. So, it feels really good to finally get acknowledged,” says Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) Cinematic Arts and Technology junior Bell Edmo (Pyramid Lake Paiute, Shoshone Bannock, and Blackfeet), who was named as the IAIA Student of the Year at the Student Success Summit. The selection came as a surprise to her. “I was sitting all the way back in the corner. I didn’t suspect anything,” she says. Despite that, Edmo has steadily been putting in the work at IAIA. In her sophomore year, she applied for the Santa Fe Film Institute’s (SFFI) inaugural Imogene Hughes Scholarship and was chosen as one of the recipients. “And through that [award], I ended up getting hired to collaborate on one of their videos to do the next year’s scholarship.” When asked about her other accomplishments, she shyly suggested talking to Student Success Advisor Karen Red Eye (Seneca). “She’s a really good mentor because she pushes me beyond my limit of thinking just here and in the now,” she asserts.

Edmo’s passion for art, combined with technology, came about by chance. In her sophomore year in high school, she was placed in the wrong class—a graphic design architecture class, during which she modeled her childhood home. “I learned that in the span of maybe two months, and then I ended up having to leave from that school,” she shares. At a new school in Phoenix, she was placed in a Photoshop class. “…at the end of the semester, my instructor was like, ‘You know, I think you’re really proficient’… ‘I think you could really go somewhere.’ I was like, ‘Mmm, no, I’m not into art,’ because at the time, I just played basketball—like I was just a straight athlete.”

When she was attending Riverside Indian School in Oklahoma, it was IAIA’s Digital Dome that caught her attention during a college tour. “And I remember seeing the Dome. This—yeah, this was a whole reason why I came to school here.”

The teaching style of Cinematic Arts and Technology Adjunct Faculty Ben Shed, who Edmo credits as “such a great instructor,” fast-tracked her learning. “I know that Ben creates that safe space of ‘Nothing’s wrong’ and ‘Nothing’s right.’ It’s just about, ‘Let’s see what we can work with.’ Everybody has such a different approach with working in this space.” Since learning to design for the 3-dimensional environment of the Dome, she has found it hard to go back to a more 2-dimensional format. She even took a Dome class twice to learn more about the technology. “You can create anything that your mind thinks of, but to relay that onto something that’s huge—in a huge screen—it’s even more amazing because the whole space becomes lit with your art.”

“You can create anything that your mind thinks of, but to relay that onto something that’s huge—in a huge screen—it’s even more amazing because the whole space becomes lit with your art.”

Bell Edmo (Pyramid Lake Paiute, Shoshone Bannock, and Blackfeet)

2024 IAIA Student of the Year

“Film has kind of always been one of those things where I knew that I wasn’t going to be on the other side of it because I just loved editing,” she explains. “I didn’t really care in what aspect it was. I just love to edit. Yeah, so it was just one of those things where I guess it kind of found me.”

Bell has embraced experimentation inside and outside of IAIA. “As of right now, I really like to make visualizers. Depending on who I’m filming with—what is it—off-campus maybe, or along the lines of just being downtown, I just collect a whole bunch of footage, either off of our phones or do like filming on an actual camera.” She also wrote a script for a Native romantic comedy, an underexplored medium, which she plans on bringing to life in her senior year. “…I feel like our love is such a good expression.”

“I don’t think I just want to stay within the realms of just film and screenwriting,” reveals Edmo. “I think that there’s so many different approaches to film, like you can’t really put yourself in one spot. And especially being here, I started to dabble in just the question of ‘what if,’ or like ‘why,’ or ‘how.’ And that’s kind of where it led me into this space…right now, I want to go into this whole other field—because, especially talking to Ben—like immersive media and interactive media, it’s becoming a whole new thing. So, I would love to learn a lot more in those spaces, and wherever I can, at least gain knowledge and pass that onto other people because I feel like that should be shared.”

Edmo plans to expand her working space in the Dome further. “…once we get this little tool that’s supposed to move the Dome up, where we can rotate it, those backboards can come up and fill this whole space,” she explains. She wants to create a walk-in interactive space filled with color. “Where I would love the space to go is for not only my pieces to just be art pieces themselves, but for the people to be a part of that—I would love them to be a part of the art and immerse themselves in it, to create that beauty and that essence.”

Quotes have been edited for brevity and clarity.