SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A record-setting fundraiser will help Indigenous students get a college degree and it’s largely because of one talented alumna. Kathleen Wall of Jemez Pueblo, a distinguished potter, grew up making pottery. Wall knew she wanted to turn her passion into a career.
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“By the time I finished high school, I was ready to go to art school and the first choice, of course, was the Institute of American Indian Arts,” Wall said.
Wall is now one of the most successful graduates to come out of the Santa Fe-based IAIA, though the list of notable alums is long. “Wherever you go and there’s Native art being exhibited… there’s usually some connection to the Institute of American Indian Arts and a lot of times it’s one of our alums,” said President of IAIA Dr. Robert Martin.
The school relies on its alumni and donors to fund the next generation of Native American artists and creators. “About 80% of our students are eligible for federal financial aid which means they definitely had a need for scholarship support,” said Dr. Martin.
The institute’s biggest fundraiser is their annual gala where alumni contribute pieces to be auctioned off. Wall was this year’s signature artist. She recruited other alumni to make different decorative aspects of her four ceramic dolls and the pieces were a hit. Wall’s work sold for more than $30,000.
The event itself was record-breaking. “Pre-COVID, we were netting about $300,000, but this past August we netted over $400,000. At least $415,000,” said Dr. Martin.
Martin says the scholarship money raised will help most students graduate debt-free. “Scholarships make the difference for our students in terms of their success and there’s a correlation usually about 80% to 90% of our seniors that graduate are receiving scholarships, so it makes a big difference,” Dr. Martin said.
Wall is happy to help the school that set her up for success. “It has state-of-the-art facilities so anybody that goes there is getting an excellent education,” she said.
Dr. Martin says enrollment took a hit during the pandemic and they’re now focusing on recruiting first-year students. For more information., visit iaia.edu.