|Joanne was making last-minute preparations for her spring 2010 graduation from the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) when the business program director, Jennifer Coots (Diné), received a phone call from a prominent Santa Fe artist looking for an intern. “I asked Michael Roanhorse (Diné) why he didn’t call the studio arts department for an intern and he said he specifically wanted someone who had completed our new business and entrepreneurship certificate program.”
In 2007, the American Indian College Fund awarded a $400,000 five-year grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. to build intellectual capital at IAIA. Under the Woksape Oyate: Wisdom of the People program, IAIA proposed to strengthen the indigenous liberal studies program and further a new business major. To that end, IAIA designed and implemented a new certificate program in business and entrepreneurship. The certificate program can augment the studies of IAIA students, or be taken by a community member to prepare Native artists to operate their own businesses. To date, five students completed the program, including Joanne.
Like many recent graduates, Joanne (who earned a BFA in studio arts and a certificate in the business and entrepreneurship program in 2010) initially struggled with a lack of confidence in transitioning to the workforce. Joanne said she found the prospect of working with a professional artist was intimidating. Coots assured Joanne of the business skills and knowledge she was gaining in the certificate program and encouraged her to ask about the specifics of what Roanhorse wanted. “I spoke with Michael over the phone and felt like I could do the things he was looking for in an assistant,” Joanne said, and in a few weeks, she found herself working as the first business intern from IAIA’s newest program.
The summer art scene in Santa Fe is “non-stop.” Working out of Roanhorse’s shared studio on Canyon Road, Joanne found herself immersed with clients, galleries, the press, and a variety of famous artists. Time management skills were crucial for her survival in this environment. “Time management was a big advantage. It’s true in the real world that when things are due they’re due,” Joanne said. She was exposed to strict deadlines in IAIA’s certificate program, which boasts zero-tolerance for late assignments. “After the business program, I try to get everything done on time.” Joanne stressed that zero-tolerance should continue in the program for the benefit of future students. “I cannot stress time management enough—in the real world—if you lose a possible client you need to go find another one.”
Joanne said she found the business program served her well throughout the internship. “Accounting helped because I was trying to help (Roanhorse) manage getting the lowest price and best quality for his money. I was also keeping track of my hours, things he owed—at times I was pretty much running the show.” She found herself continually preparing marketing portfolios for galleries and the press on behalf of her boss. She also found small business development helped with the technicalities, legalities, and ethics. “I never thought zoning would come up!” she said. When residential neighbors complained about too many cars parking near the art studio, Joanne brought up the issue of commercial zoning and quickly resolved what could have escalated into a major issue.
The summer culminated with the Santa Fe Indian Market, the world’s largest Native art market and exhibition held outdoors in the historic, downtown, Santa Fe plaza. “Indian Market was tough, especially in the second day when I had to set up everything by myself at 6:00 am. Sometimes you just suck it up and do it because it is a business and you need to figure it out yourself,” she said.
After completing the rigorous schedule and steep learning curve of her internship, Joanne believes an internship should be a requirement in the certificate program. “If you’re interning with another artist, sometimes you think twice about becoming an artist or the type of artist you want to become,” she said. Thanks to Joanne’s hard work and success, future business internships may be a win-win for IAIA business and entrepreneurship certificate students and the Santa Fe arts community.
Story contributed by Jennifer Coots (Diné), a full-time instructor in the Department of Indigenous Liberal Studies at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA), specializing in business and entrepreneurship. She is the program manager of Woksape Oyate: Wisdom of the People grant.