Culture Pass: Lloyd Kiva New

The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is celebrating the work of native artist Lloyd Kiva New.

Early Life & Education

Lloyd Kiva New was of Cherokee and Scottish-Irish heritage. His mother was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian and his father was a Scottish-Irish Immigrant. They met and married in Oklahoma and had a family of ten and Lloyd was the youngest. Lloyd Henry, as he was known at that time – before he became Lloyd Kiva, grew up on the family farm in Oklahoma.

His first art experience was at the Art Institute of Chicago, right after high school, when he and his friends basically snuck onto a train (‘hobo-style’ – popular in his day), and traveled up to Chicago from Oklahoma to see the big city.

Lloyd ended up going to school at the Art Institute of Chicago through the efforts of his sister and mother after struggling with his studies at a state college in Oklahoma.


He spent time in the Navy as a junior officer during World War II and was involved with planning and preparation of the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa Japan. He witnessed the bombardment and landing at the two sites. He was doing sketches and drawings at that time and they live in the exhibit within the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture.


Kiva New was the first Native American to ‘make it’ in the high fashion world. His designs, clothing and purses became extremely popular in the late 40’s, early 50’s. His work was sought after by celebrities and he was renowned for one-of-a-kind, creative designs.

Today, the young people moving into fashion look to him for inspiration as the first Native American and consider him the ‘Godfather of Fashion’.

“He came here, because he wanted to make a contribution, to make sure that the wonderful culture and art of Native American people was not only able to continue but to flourish. And he wanted to help Native young people find their way with their own identity and to bring out the best in their own Native culture and art and show that to the world,” says a representative from the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture.

The Life and Art of Innovative Native American Artist and Designer Lloyd Kiva New

February 14, 2016 – December 30, 2016
Museum of Indian Arts & Culture
710 Camino Lejo
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