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A home away from home

IAIA dorms set to open


SANTA FE, N.M. (MCT) - Her fifth and final year at the Institute for American Indian Arts could turn out to be the best for aspiring Navajo jeweler Jacqueline Smith. Working toward a bachelor's degree in fine arts, she's had a job on campus for three years. This year, she'll move into a new dorm.Campus jobs usually don't pay enough for students to afford an off-campus residence, Smith said, but working off-campus means long commutes that cut into time that could be spent on art projects.Santa Fe's high housing costs and limited access to on-campus housing have been among the college's greatest barriers in recruiting students, according to college president Robert Martin.After a stint in private housing, Smith moved back on campus, where she found adequate accommodations in one of the colleges' 24 casitas, until now each shared by four students. In January, she'll have more room to spread out.Resident students who returned to IAIA mid-January anticipated a little more elbow room than when they moved off-campus at the end of last semester. The campus' new dorms were finished and ready for their first occupants.Multicolored exterior walls express the Pueblo-Revival style of the area. More subtle comments on Pueblo traditions are found in the floor plan of the new dorms.''The entrance was associated with the northeast to focus on the Jemez Mountains, which are sacred to many Native people,'' Martin said.Inside, hallways are aligned along north-south and east-west axes, which reflect the four cardinal directions. At the intersection of hallways are shared lounge and study areas.As the college looks forward to its 50th anniversary in 2012, planners are taking a new look at the college's mission and how it accomplishes its purposes. The new dorms were part of that effort.The $7.9 million dorm project is Phase I of an emerging lifelong learning center intended to more firmly root IAIA in the lives of tribal communities. With private bathrooms and hotel-style accommodations, the dorm can provide housing for other groups when students are away, Martin said.Currently in the design phase, a conference center is slated to be finished adjacent the new dorms sometime in 2009. That design, Martin said, will feature curvilinear forms similar to those that define existing buildings at the campus center. At the entrance of the new conference center, a teepee structure will memorialize life on the Plains in earlier times.The planned $5 million conference center will help the institute accomplish its mission to area tribes and pueblos, Martin said. In addition to training young people for careers in the arts, the institute, through its planned conference center, hopes to promote tribal sovereignty and economic development in tribal communities.Targeted to meet stringent environmental standards in both construction and building operations, a planned LEED-Gold certification for the conference center will place the college among the front ranks of local institutions seeking to reduce the environmental impact of buildings. The dorms were built to meet a LEED-Silver standard, but plans did not include formal certification, Martin said.Next on the list of building plans is a science and technology building. In January, the institute plans to ask the Legislature for money for that project, Martin said.A new four-year degree program in indigenous liberal studies reflects institute ambitions to move beyond narrowly focused arts training. The science and technology building will anchor plans to expand the institute's curriculum beyond the core focus on arts.''Our mission is much more than training arts and crafts people,'' Martin said.Science education can still be arts-oriented, Martin said. Physics and math come into play in arts production. Success in the arts industry often requires business acumen, so the institute is also teaching students business and leadership skills needed for work as museum curators and managers.As students occupy new dorm rooms next year, the 24 vacant casitas will be renovated to house families, Martin said.Located on Avan Nu Po near Rancho Viejo, IAIA is a federal land-grant college open to all qualified students. About 90 percent of the 221 students enrolled there are American Indian, Martin said.Copyright (c) 2007, The Santa Fe New Mexican. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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