IAIA - Institute of American Indian Arts

JoAnn Lynn Balzer

Joann Balzer

JoAnn Lynn Balzer is a Santa Fe, New Mexico community leader with more than twenty years of non-profit management, museum, and fund-raising experience. She has long been a supporter of the contemporary expressions of Native American arts and an advocate for Native American and other indigenous cultures around the world.

JoAnn has had a distinguished career in both the sciences and the arts. A native of Farrell, Pennsylvania, where she was the class valedictorian in 1959, JoAnn grew to love the sciences while attending Westminster College in New Wilmington, PA on a Sharon Steel scholarship. After graduating magna cum laude there with a Bachelor in Science in 1963, she was awarded a mathematics fellowship from Carnegie Mellon University, where she received an M.S in 1965.

She started her career teaching mathematics at Penn State University, McKeesport Campus and at Pepperdine University in Los Angeles, and retired from the sciences after a twenty-five year distinguished career with IBM in Los Angeles in systems engineering and advanced technology. After moving to Santa Fe in 1991, she was in great demand for her fundraising and management skills, and started a second career in the arts, non-profit management and development. Thus began her journey from her roots in Western Pennsylvania to the exploration of Native American art and culture and a life in the Southwest.

From her passion for Native American art and culture emanates a desire to advocate for artists and their work and to gain recognition for contemporary Native American art as fine art. In 2014, continuing their support especially for young and emerging artists, The Balzers named a gallery for Native American student art, The Balzer Contemporary Edge Gallery, on the campus of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA).

JoAnn was honored with a Presidential appointment. In 2010, she was appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the United States Senate as a Trustee at the Institute of American Indian Arts. IAIA is the only four-year degree fine arts institution in the nation devoted to contemporary Native American and Alaska Native arts. It is devoted to the study of contemporary arts, as well as the art of education.

JoAnn received an Honorary Doctorate in 2015, from her undergraduate alma mater, Westminster College in New Wilmington, PA.

JoAnn has made innumerable contributions to the arts and non-profit organizations in Santa Fe. She helped establish two Museums in Santa Fe – the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum and the Museum of Spanish Colonial Arts. She also helped found the Institute of American Indian Arts Foundation, the Code of the West Foundation, and the Center for Cowboy Ethics and Leadership. She co-founded the Collectors’ Club at the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles and Friends of Indian Art at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe, to foster an appreciation and understanding of Native American arts. In 2003, she was appointed by Governor Bill Richardson to serve as President of the New Mexico Film Museum and in 2009 appointed as a Commissioner of New Mexico Arts, the state arts agency.

Her service to the community and to Native American education includes serving on the boards of the IAIA, the Lensic Performing Arts Center, and New Mexico Arts. She is an advisory trustee of the Museum of New Mexico Foundation and the Santa Fe International Folk Art Alliance. She formerly served on the boards of the Southwest Museum and Autry National Center in Los Angeles, Creative Santa Fe, and New Mexico Women in the Arts, and was Executive Director of the Institute of American Indian Arts, Buckaroo Ball, and Code of the West and Center for Cowboy Ethics and Leadership Foundations. In 2014, JoAnn was inducted into the Farrell High School Alumni Hall of Fame.