For Immediate Release

Contact: Eric Davis, Marketing & Communications Director 
505.424.2351 or 

Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA)  
Academic Dean 
and Notable Native American Activist and Artist
Charlene Teters
Announces Retirement

Santa Fe, New Mexico: August 19, 2020
IAIA Academic Dean and noted artist, educator, and activist, Charlene Teters (Spokane), has announced her retirement, effective September 30, 2020.

Charlene Teters 
Photo by Jason S. Ordaz, courtesy of IAIA

Teters earned an AFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts, a BFA from the College of Santa Fe, and an MFA from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. In addition, she was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Mitchell College in New London, CT.

After establishing the Racial Justice Office at the National Congress of American Indians, Teters returned to IAIA in 1992 as Director of Alumni Relations and Student Retention. In 2013, she was promoted to Associate Professor in the Studio Arts Department. She has also served as a Visiting Lecturer in the Art Department at the Ohio State University and received a two-year appointment as the Hugh O. LaBounty Endowed Chair at the California Polytechnic State University in Pomona, CA.

In 2000, Teters was appointed as the Interim Dean of the Academic Division during IAIA's transition and move from the College of Santa Fe campus to their new campus in Rancho Viejo, and named the Academic Dean in 2015.

Charlene Teters 
Photo by Jason S. Ordaz, courtesy of IAIA

As an artist, Teters has a history of producing politically-impactful installations. During the 1999 Site Santa Fe Biennial Looking for a Placecurated by Rosa Martinez, US artists from around the country were invited to participate with works focusing on place.
Teters had observed the Obelisk at the Santa Fe Plaza, which was partially inscribed with the term "savage Indians", had been "modified" when someone chiseled away the word "savage". Teters created her own obelisk which only contained the word "savage," and placed it near the plaza. Her perspective on this installation is that it was not created to be confrontational - merely to spur discussion on the topic.

Charlene Teters and the Obelisk.
Image courtesy of the artist.

During a Staff and Faculty show at the Balzer Contemporary Edge Gallery on the IAIA campus, Teters created an installation: #NoToRedSamboHere she addressed a subject close to her heart - the use of Native Americans and imagery as sports mascots. Focused on Chief Wahoo, the image that serves as the logo for Cleveland's major league baseball team, Teters remarked "These images should have gone by the wayside along with Little Black Sambo and the Frito Bandito." 

Teters has exhibited internationally and maintains an active presence lecturing and delivering keynote speeches and commencement addresses across the United States.  She first gained national prominence as a graduate student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where she led protests against the degrading depictions of American Indian caricatures used as sport teams' mascots. Teters' activism has led to a strong upswing in efforts to eliminate Native American mascots in the United States. This history of her activism is the subject of a nationally-aired award- winning documentary"In Whose Honor?" by Jay Rosenstein. She was one of the driving forces behind the recent decision to rename the Washington Football Team.
In 2002, she received a New Mexico Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts. In 2017 she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women's Caucus for the Arts.
Her paintings and art installations have been featured in over 21 major exhibitions, commissions, and collections. Additionally, Teters was the first Artist-in-Residence at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, New York.

When asked about her retirement plans, Teters replied: "My husband Don and I have plans to move to my home reservation in Washington State.  We will create a place to make art in my homeland so I can become a part of the revitalization of my Spokane language and river culture."

IAIA President Dr. Robert Martin (Cherokee) remarked that "The IAIA community will miss Dean Teters. She is a role model for us all in terms of her creative leadership in Indigenous arts education, commitment to our students, and her contributions and service to Indigenous issues through her art and activism."
To arrange an interview with Dean Teters, please contact Eric Davis at 505.424.2351, or

Offering undergraduate degrees in Studio Arts, Creative Writing, Cinematic Arts and Technology, Indigenous Liberal Studies, Museum Studies, and Performing Arts -- an MFA in Creative Writing -- along with certificates in Business and Entrepreneurship, Museum Studies, and Native American Art History -- IAIA is the only college in the nation dedicated to the study of contemporary Native arts. The school serves approximately 500 full time equivalent (FTE) Native and non-Native American college students from across the globe.  IAIA is accredited by the 
Higher Learning Commission.

About IAIA:


For over 50 years, the Institute of American Indian Arts has played a key role in the direction and shape of Native expression. With an internationally acclaimed college, museum, and tribal support resource through the IAIA Land Grant Programs, IAIA is dedicated to the study and advancement of Native arts and cultures -- and committed to student achievement and the preservation and progress of their communities. Learn more about IAIA and our mission at   


# # #