Museum of Contemporary Native Arts

Fifty Influential Artists Highlighted in New Museum of Contemporary Native Arts show

Santa Fe, NM | Jun 7, 2012 –

In 1959, a successful Cherokee fashion designer in Scottsdale, Ariz., would organize an exploratory workshop for Native American arts and discuss its prospects.

“The future of Indian art lies in the future, not the past-let’s stop looking backward for our standard of Indian art production,” Lloyd “Kiva” New said. “… Let’s be more concerned with the evolution of artists rather than of art products. Let’s see that the young Indian realizes the values of his great and wonderful traditions as the springboard to his own personal creative ideas. Indian art of the future will be in new forms, produced in new media and with new technological methods. The end result will be as Indian as the Indian.”

Three years later, the Bureau of Indian Affairs would hire New as the first director for the art high school for Native Americans in Santa Fe. It was at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) New would take his vision to develop talented, young Native Americans into career painters, printmakers, sculptors, writers and other fine artists. Fifty years later, IAIA would evolve into the only four-year college in the nation dedicated to the study of contemporary Native arts.

A new Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA) multi-disciplinary exhibition opening August 17 celebrates this milestone and commemorates artists’ contributions with 50/50: Fifty Artists, Fifty Years, an ensemble of 50 artists representing works completed at IAIA in each decade and housed in its permanent collection.

Within the walls of the 7,000-square-foot, state-of-the art storage built in 2010 to house the permanent collection located at IAIA’s campus on outskirts of town, lie treasures from the past. From the inaugural works of painter T.C. Cannon, sculptor Doug Hyde and other iconic artists who helped shaped the contemporary Native American art movement, to sculptures, jewelry and textiles by other impassioned and fervent creators, IAIA soon became a place where students not only learned technique but challenged each other and pushed beyond the conventional two-dimensional style. Although they drew from their rich cultural background, students refused to accept “feathers and leather” as “authentic” Indian art.  IAIA became that transcendental space.

“Our Vietnam Neighbors” Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie 1979; MoCNA Collection: N-452

“It wasn’t like a regular art school where it’s very competitive and very westernized,” said Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie (Taskigi/Dine’), who started at IAIA in 1976. “We were also growing up during a time that we wanted to just understand what was happening politically and artistically.

“It was really something special,” added Tsinhnahjinnie, now associate professor and director of the C.N. Gorman Museum at University of California Davis. “For me, what I was doing more was observing more and seeing what everybody was making-some had deep cultural knowledge and others who spent time in foster care were learning who they were.”

Tatiana Lomahaftewa-Singer, museum curator of collections, who oversees the more than 7,500 pieces of student work amassed since 1962, chose pieces for the 50/50 show based on a number of criteria, including how well each piece spoke to IAIA’s founders’ vision.

“As with artists going to Europe to study impressionism by Renoir, and printmaking and the Baroque style by Rembrandt, we have artists coming here to study T.C. Cannon or Allan Houser,” she said. “I can’t image where Native arts would be today without IAIA.”

In addition to the studio arts, 50/50 visitors will also be greeted with a digital installation from the IAIA New Media Arts Department representing the next generation of IAIA artists with audio recordings of IAIA creative writing over the past 50 years. Listen to excerpts of poetry from various IAIA alumni by clicking here.

The exhibition, 50/50: Fifty Artists, Fifty Years, will continue through December 31.  The opening reception is 5 p.m. August 16. For more information about the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, go to

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Contact Information

Tatiana Lomahaftewa-Singer, 505-428-5899 or