NEWS RELEASE                     

For Immediate Release 



  Carmen Henan, Dean of Student Life 

505.424.2336, or 

  Eric Davis, Marketing & Communications Director

                505.424.2351, or 


Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA)  
2019 Commencement Keynote Address 
to be Delivered by  
  Noted Sculptor and Contemporary Pueblo Artist
Roxanne Swentzell

Ceremony to take place Saturday, May 11, 2019 at 11:00 am 
SANTA FE, N.M. - April 17, 2019. 

Roxanne Swentzell (Santa Clara Pueblo) has been selected to give the Institute of American Indian Arts' 2019 commencement address at 11:00 am on Saturday, May 11, 2019.  The Commencement Ceremony will be held in the Dance Circle on the IAIA Campus, -- 83 Avan Nu Po Road, on the South Side of Santa Fe -- just minutes from the intersection of Rodeo Road and Richards Avenue. For directions and a map of the campus click here. The public is welcome to attend. 
A complimentary luncheon will follow.

In addition to delivering the commencement address, Swentzell will also be awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities degree during the ceremony. Previous recipients of the IAIA Honorary Doctor of Humanities Degree have included notable persons such as George Rivera (Pojoaque Pueblo), Dan Namingha (Hopi-Tewa), Kevin Red Star (Crow), Suzan Harjo   (Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee), James Luna (LuiseƱo), N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa), Tony Abeyta (Navajo), Dave Warren (Santa Clara Pueblo), David Bradley (Minnesota Chippewa Tribe), and Linda Lomahaftewa (Hopi/Choctaw).

Roxanne Swentzell
Photo by Jason Ordaz. Courtesy of IAIA.

Roxanne Swentzell was born on December 9, 1962 in Taos, New Mexico. She loved art from an early age. As a child, Swentzell struggled with a speech impediment that prevented her from communicating. Unable to articulate her emotions through words she began to make miniature figures in clay to convey her feelings. The sculptures she created as a means to express herself to others continues to be her primary artistic medium.  While still in high school, Swentzell attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and completed the program in 1979.

The descendant of a long line of the talented potters of the Santa Clara Pueblo , Swentzell grew up with customary methods of Pueblo pottery making. She watched her mother harvesting clay then hand-coiling and pit-firing pots. She learned from an early age how to dig, mix, and process her own clay. After  her two years at IAIA, Swentzell attended Portland's Museum Art School in 1980. She left after one year.  While Swentzell's formal education ended with her departure from The Portland Museum Art School, Swentzell does not consider that the end of her education. Swentzell has said that:

"Every day is an amazing new book, a test in every discipline, a chance to advance myself, and great times on the playground." 

This philosophy is reflected in her decision to home school her two children -- daughter Rose Bean Simpsonwho followed in the family practice of making art -- she's a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, and also earned an MFA in Creative Writing from IAIA. Her son, Porter Swentzell, is the Chair of the Indigenous Liberal Studies Department at IAIA and a newly-appointed regent for Northern New Mexico College. Of this experience, Roxanne has commented that raising and home schooling her children was an education for her as well.

Swentzell's clay sculptures have moved and delighted audiences around the world. Her artistic endeavors have won Swentzell numerous awards since her early twenties.  Swentzell's first public exhibit was at the annual Santa Fe Indian Market in 1984; two years later she won a total of eight awards for her sculpture and pottery at the same event. In 1994, Swentzell also won the Market's Creative Excellence in Sculpture award. Swentzell's work combines personal and society commentary and reflects a deep respect for the earth, family, and cultural heritage. Her sculptures have shown at the White House in Washington, DC and in galleries and museums worldwide. Some of her permanent installations are at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American IndianCartier in Paris, the Santa Fe Convention Center, and the Museum of Wellington in New Zealand.

In addition to her art, Swentzell farms her own land to provide self-sustenance. Swentzell is the Co-Founder and President of the nonprofit Flowering Tree Permaculture Institute created in 1987 at the Santa Clara Pueblo. Flowering Tree is an organization that is based on the theory of ecological design which seeks to build sustainable human living and agriculture. The Institute provides lessons on different techniques and methods for healthy living. Swentzell's work with the Institute reflects her dedication to nurturing the Earth and sustaining its resources. To further her work with the Institute, and to her own personal philosophy, Swentzell looks to her ancestors as examples of preservers and protectors of the earth. Her concerns extend not only to preserving the earth but to preserving the indigenous knowledge of conservation. She initiated the Pueblo Food Experience, in which participants only ate foods available to pre-contact Tewa people.

IAIA President Dr. Robert Martin  (Cherokee) commented  "it is an incredible honor for IAIA and our 2019 graduating class for Roxanne to join us on this day of celebration to deliver the commencement address.  Also, the awarding of an honorary doctorate will provide an opportunity for IAIA to acknowledge and express our admiration to one of our alumna for her outstanding contributions to IAIA, Native arts and cultures, New Mexico, and the nation".

T o stream the event on-line, please visit  on the morning of commencement.

# # # 

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 495 full time equivalent (FTE) Native and non-Native American college students from across the globe.  IAIA is accredited by the  Higher Learning Commission  -- and is the only college in New Mexico accredited by the  National Association of Schools of Art and Design

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 our 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
The Institute of American Indian Arts Foundation is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization.  To make a donation on-line, please click here -- or call toll free: 1.800.804.6423.