goes according to plan - and there's still plenty left to do -
a third regional institute of higher learning could be made available
to area residents by fall 2005.
when the committee working to establish a branch campus of the Institute
of American Indian Art, with its headquarters in Santa Fe, N.M.,
hopes to begin enrolling students in the first tribal college east
of the Mississippi and located on the Cherokee Indian Reservation.
is not a new idea," said committee member and Cherokee High
School art teacher James Smith. "It's been hashed around for
20 years, but all past attempts have failed for various political
and financial reasons."
and other committee members say they believe the time is finally
right for such an endeavor, and Cherokee Tribal Council members
agreed when they approved funding for a feasibility study.
idea for the branch campus has widespread support," said Smith,
himself a CHS and IAIA alumnus. In addition to funding support from
tribal council, Smith cited support ranging from the business community
to both Southwestern Community College and Western Carolina University,
the Jackson County and North Carolina arts councils, the Museum
of Cherokee Indians and the Qualla Arts and Crafts Co-op.
addition to addressing the higher education needs of local artists
- not just local Indian artists, Smith says, but Appalachian crafters,
as well - a Cherokee IAIA branch campus makes sense considering
the fact that a market for such art is waiting to be tapped in the
Eastern United States.
doesn't make sense that there can't be a market here," said
Smith, who pointed out that the majority of the country's population
is located in the East.
committee members and many others have been exhaustively working
toward the establishment of a college campus in Cherokee, the reality
of its conception and birth hit home, Smith said, when tribal council
members purchased the Boundary Tree property and gave the committee
the first right of refusal for its use.
property is well-suited for what we want to do," said Smith,
who pointed out the potential, with minor renovations, of hotel
rooms to become dorm rooms and other housing, a kitchen and dining
room already on site, and ample studio space.
far as what it takes to run a college, Smith said the committee
"saw no reason to re-invent the wheel." By bringing an
IAIA branch campus to Cherokee, the backing and knowledge of those
associated with a 40-year-old accredited college would follow, he
was established in 1962 by the Bureau of Indian Affairs initially
as a high school. In 1975 the institute became a two-year college
offering associate degrees. Five areas of study are now available:
creative writing, general education, three-dimensional art, two-dimensional
art and museum studies.
the first Indian educational institution to be premised on the value
of the cultural heritage of America's native peoples, self-identity
and individual expression were encouraged," the school's Web
site says, "and the contemporary arts were taught as a vehicle
for that expression."
3,500 students from most of the 557 federally-recognized tribes
in the United States, including the Eastern Band of Cherokee, have
been served by IAIA, where cultural values continue to be the foundation
for learning and personal development.
has created a living legacy of artistic expression, built on traditional
cultures but reflective of contemporary native life," the Web
site says. "Because of IAIA's influence, a flood of art now
pours out from Indian artists all over America, enriching Indian
and mainstream cultures, both aesthetically and economically."
Cherokee IAIA branch campus feasibility study, which committee members
hope to complete anywhere from six months to a year from now, will
include details of everything it takes to run a college and educate
students. Much of this information - including number of faculty,
number of students, renovation of Boundary Tree, curriculum offerings,
books, meal plans, housing, administration needs, marketing goals
- has been collected. Putting it all together for tribal council's
final approval is the next step, said Smith.
who counsels his most gifted students to consider IAIA after high
school, acknowledges that the barriers Eastern Band students often
encounter are often too difficult to clear.
I think its good for them to travel and see the world, the retention
rate is not good because of the distance," he said. Of the
three students he's seen enroll in IAIA in the past three years,
only one has graduated, he said.
addition to keeping students closer to home, an IAIA branch campus
in Cherokee would allow for closer cooperation with the Museum of
Cherokee Indians, which could provide curriculum opportunities;
the Qualla Arts and Crafts Co-op, which could provide marketing
opportunities; and Western Carolina University and other four-year
institutions, which could provide an additional two years of arts
education, Smith said.
has the potential to be an incredible thing for tribal students
and the arts community in general," said Smith. "I don't
think we can afford to fail."
of American Indian Art
The IAIA was founded by visionaries who
sought to reawaken artistic traditions that had been a primary
mode of Indian expression for centuries. As the first Indian educational
institution to be premised on the value of the cultural heritage
of America's Native peoples, self-identity and individual expression
were encouraged, and the contemporary arts were taught as a vehicle
for that expression.