IAIA - Institute of American Indian Arts

An Environmental Wave of Art Hits IAIA

The tallest one stands at least 12 feet, and two others follow in succession about two feet smaller than the other. It’s rebar frame and straw on a cement base now, and when it’s done it will be a permanent part of the creative spirit of IAIA.


The sculpture includes recycled glass, straw bale and stucco when finished.

The project is the result of student collaboration in a special topics course offered this fall 2013 semester by the Studio Arts Department. Core Faculty Dana Chodzko developed the Earthworks and Environmental Sculpture class to teach students how to plan, create and market a large-scale, earthen sculpture from start to finish with the stipulation that they do all the work themselves.

There were no pre-requisites for the class. Ten students from different majors—creative writing to graphics arts—at different levels—from freshmen to seniors—and some who didn’t have a studio arts class—had to first come up with an idea that they all had to agree upon and then work together to finish it before the end of the semester.

“When you get a group of people together you worry about people not coming to a consensus,” said Hannah Mabel, a senior Studio Arts major taking the class. “But when we were all sent home to think about shapes, we were all supposed to come back with our own ideas. One student put together an idea of a wave and somehow it all came together. It was a collective conscience.”

The students are calling their project Movement, with the idea of that a sculpture can also be animated. The three towering earth sculptures cast shadows on the desert floor, setting directionally toward the winter and summer solstice, according to a news release from the class. (The students also had to market the piece.) The sculpture, which is near the construction site of the new Welcome Center, addresses science, art, culture, education, and celebrates the creative community spirit, according to the release.

“It’s a very successful class, and there’s a lot of enthusiasm,” said Chodzko, who has taught the class at other colleges and enjoys offering it because it makes beautiful art on campus. “It’s very challenging and each student is meeting the challenge—I’m having them do PR, cost analysis, time analysis and it requires a group effort.

“I’m letting the students do it, and I’m staying out of it, which is hard,” Chodzko said.

“This class is above anything I’ve taken at IAIA,” Mabel said. “It really builds your knowledge in a practical way—the business aspect, the marketing, the design and building. It’s a culmination of all my classes here.”


The Earthworks and Environmental Sculpture class will have a dedication for Movement the first week of December.

One of the best things about the class is that everyone is teaching each other, Mabel said. “Everyone brings a lot of skill sets … the seniors are giving advice to the freshmen.”

The sculpture, which includes recycled glass, stucco and tile, is about halfway done. The students are also asking for donations from local businesses, including Lowe’s Home Improvement store, for stucco mix, scrap tiles and flagstone. They’ll also take broken tile or damaged bags of stucco mix, sand and cement.

The class will have a dedication ceremony the first week of December.

To donate materials, contact Chodzko at dchodzko@iaia.edu or 505.690.4306.