Honoring Lloyd Kiva New





Santa Fe New Mexican



No celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Institute of American Indian Arts would be complete without taking time to remember Lloyd Kiva New (Cherokee Nation, 1916-2002), who founded the school with Dr. George Boyce, Hildegard Thompson and others in 1962. New wanted Indigenous students at IAIA to be proud of their heritage and to use it to differentiate their work from that of other artists. He was also interested in innovation as an approach to contemporary Indigenous art and urged students to reject stereotypical notions of what American Indian art could or could not be. As artist, writer and educator Alfred Young Man (ChippewaCree) writes in the introduction to The Sound of Drums: A Memoir of Lloyd Kiva New, “Mr. New confronted the stereotypes and racism with his edict that IAIA was there to let Indian art students explore being the people they were; the school was not there ‘to shove anybody's culture down their throats.' This attitude was directly opposite to what anthropological discourse and popular political opinion of the time embraced.” In New's obituary in The New York Times, former IAIA professor Dave Warren (Santa Clara Pueblo) said, “The creative genius behind what he did is not only in serving American Indian artists, but finding a way to look at the meaning of art and culture and put them into an institution and a philosophy.” Six decades after its start, IAIA remains the only institution dedicated to arts education for Native people, thanks in large part to New's foundational leadership. Born Lloyd Henri New in 1916 in Fairland, Oklahoma, New spent his childhood in a rural Cherokee community hearing stories his Cherokee mother told about his culture. As an adult, he left Oklahoma to earn bachelor's and master's degrees in art education from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. After graduating, he taught painting at the Phoenix Indian School. New served in the U.S. Navy during World War II before returning to the United States to start a career in textile and fashion design. In 1946 he opened a fashion boutique in Craftsman Court in Scottsdale. There he made leather purses, belts and hats under the label Kiva, eventually expanding his design house to incorporate a full clothing line. His hand-dyed and printed fabrics referenced the landscapes and vibrant colors of the Southwest and merged American Indian motifs, designs and sometimes languages with midcentury styling. He collaborated with talents like Charles Loloma (Hopi), Andrew Van Tsihnahjinnie (Navajo) and Manfred Susunkewa (Hopi) on both design and production. His signature bags, midi-skirts for women and tailored shirts for men made it into department stores like Neiman-Marcus and onto the pages of Life and Town and Country magazines, providing never-before-seen exposure and acclaim for Native fashion design. He was the first American Indian to participate in an international fashion show, and his clientele included such luminaries as Eleanor Roosevelt, Lady Bird Johnson and actress Lynn Freyse, who was Miss Arizona 1957. New's fashion business was a smashing success, but he left it all behind in the early 1960s to pursue his dream of providing arts education for Native students. He was the first art director at IAIA at a time when mainstream contemporary art was starting to welcome personal stories, political ideologies and expressions of culture. He later became president of IAIA, a position he held until 1978. The year 2022 marks 20 years since Lloyd Kiva New passed on, but his legacy of creativity and advocacy for Native arts remains strong. As the late artist and IAIA professor Fritz Scholder (Luiseno) said, New's “creative mind transcended the mundane. This quiet insight was powerful to everyone. His vision influences us all.” Staci Golar, a nonprofit arts and communications consultant, writes about arts and culture for publications across the United States.