IAIA - Institute of American Indian Arts

The Search for IAIA “Official” School Colors

Black. Beige. Turquoise. Red. Silver. White and gold. About a half dozen colors have been a part of the IAIA. Some have had a long history in the school’s 51 years, and others were given to the school for aesthetic purposes.

In a recent survey to pick a color palette, the IAIA community chose red, turquoise and black as the official school colors. The survey, which was sent to nearly 1,000 students, faculty, alumni, staff, Board of Trustees and Foundation Board members, and others within the IAIA community, was open for a week and listed several colors, including a space to suggest a color. Of the nearly 200 respondents, survey respondents said they wanted to keep the “traditional” school colors. But with multiple campus moves in Santa Fe over the years and changes in mascots, not many people were exactly sure what the original or official school colors were?

One of the earliest references to the school colors can found in a 1966 student newspaper, Drum Beats (page 3). The paper lists the 1966-67 IAIA Braves high school basketball schedule, and team colors black, silver and turquoise.


The post-secondary basketball team, the Cheiftans in 1965. Their colors were red, white and black. Click on photo to see detail.

However, when IAIA was created as a high school, it also had a post-secondary program, a 13th and 14th grade. That program worked like an A.A. degree and those graduates were offered a certificate. According to Bob Harcourt, an IAIA Foundation Board member and former IAIA employee who began working on campus in 1965, the post-secondary program also had its own sports teams called the Chieftans. Their uniforms were red, white and black.

No official paperwork exists that states what the school colors were when the school opened in 1962, archivist Ryan Flahive said. And most of the early photos in the archive are black and white.

When the All Indian Pueblo Council took over the Cerrillos Road campus and IAIA began its move to the College of Santa Fe in 1981, IAIA surrendered the mascot name Braves. Today, the Cerrillos Road site is the Santa Fe Indian School, which is home of the Braves and its colors are red or maroon, white and gold. IAIA then adopted the Thunderbird, which was designed by IAIA alumni and former employee Larry Desjarlais.

In 2008, when the school underwent a branding revision process, a consulting company introduced red, purple, yellow and gray to delineate IAIA administration, the college, the Center for Lifelong Education (CLE) and the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts. These colors are reflected on IAIA’s current website.

Now, in an effort to bring the college, the CLE and the museum under one umbrella and to meet the goals of the strategic plan, Vision 2017, IAIA is reevaluating its brand to unify the entire campus, this time with a palette of colors that will be consistent across all its entities. Vision 2017 also calls for enhancing sustainability, as well as building participation in and ownership of the college community.

“What better way to build participation and ownership than have the community participate in the branding revision process, as well as choose the school’s officials colors,” said Kim Baca, IAIA Marketing and Communications director. “But branding is more just colors, it’s the message we send out about IAIA’s mission and purpose. When we identify something like the official school colors, the campus and its entities become unified and speak with one voice – it’s a voice that will be heard as the school continues to compete and grow.”

With the school colors chosen, the branding revision project will move forward with a new set of guidelines and policies regarding color usage and a redesign of IAIA business cards and stationary. Eventually, a website redesign will also follow.

IAIA’s new consultants will have a presentation of the new color palette in March. The branding committee, which includes IAIA President Dr. Robert Martin and a representative from each department and the Associated Student Government, will make recommendations on the proposed revisions or accept the consultants’ suggestions. Implementation for the new branding guidelines is slated for this fall.