IAIA Builds Cultural Center Despite Cuts

Feb 15th, 2000 | By | Category: 11-3: Native Language, Tribal College News

The construction crew included Robin Guido; Valorie Johnson of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation; IAIA president Della Warrior; Air Lock Log Homes President Susan Oster; Leticia Chambers of the IAIA board; Joanna Big Feather of the IAIA Museum; and AIHEC Project Coordinator Anne Edinger. Photo by Antonio Ruales

“It was like an old fashioned barn-raising,” said Della Warrior, president of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe. About 200 volunteers showed up last October to construct the first building for the institute’s new campus using mostly donated materials. In less than one day, they erected the 4,400 square foot Cultural Learning Center. Warrior (Otoe-Missouria) and IAIA Trustee Tom Thompson (Blackfeet) watched a golden eagle circle the site as the structure was erected.

Warrior appreciated the good omen and the enthusiastic support for the beleaguered art college. For more than two years, Warrior has been leading a campaign to fight decreases in federal funding through the same kind of grass-roots activism that stacked the logs for the eight-sided, hogan-shaped center. While work proceeded on the cultural center, the U.S. Congress was cutting the institute’s federal funding by half, down to $2.125 million for this year. Congress created the IAIA in 1986 as a federally chartered college, but language in the fiscal year 2000 appropriation bill said that this would be the last year of federal funding.

According to a statement from the IAIA Board of Trustees, the institute has raised enough public and private funds to continue constructing the new campus. Construction of the new campus is essential to reduce the extraordinary rent paid for the last two decades in Santa Fe since IAIA had no home of its own (see TCJ, Vol. X, N.1). The college will need to raise a total of $15.4 million for the construction.

IAIA’s cultural center is one of 30 being constructed on tribal college campuses nationwide. Initiated by a grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Mich., the centers are sponsored by the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC). They represent a unique partnership between private industry, a foundation, and the tribal colleges. The Log Homes Council of the National Association of Home Builders donated log structures to each college community. The centers will serve as repositories for tribal material culture, create venues for contemporary exhibitions by students and local artists, and provide public space for performance and speaking engagements.

Air-Lock Log Homes of Las Vegas, N.M., provided the logs to IAIA and three other tribal colleges (Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute and Crownpoint Institute of Technology in New Mexico and Fort Peck Community College in Montana). The IAIA cultural center also received donated materials and services from Commercial Roofing, Boddington Lumber, Flintco, Inc., Mesa Steel, Inc., Carrier Air Corporation, Santa Fe Concrete, Sandia Plumbing and Heating, Signgraphics, Navajo Construction, and several foundations.

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