Forrest Fenn has sparked a lot of interest in the last few years in New Mexico over a hidden treasure. Those who truly know New Mexico realize that there is treasure that’s not so hidden all around us. It’s seen in the natural treasure that abounds: spectacular skies and a captivating landscape.
It’s also seen in the deep appreciation of the arts and diverse expressions of the arts in New Mexican colleges and universities.
Many colleges and universities in New Mexico are actively supporting the arts and inspiring a new generation to create beauty, meaning and a celebration of heritage.
This treasure is clear to Randy Grissom, president of Santa Fe Community College. With the “wealth of resources available in Santa Fe,” Grissom believes Santa Fe Community College has a great deal to offer students interested in the arts. He pointed out that SFCC has the “full gamut of programs” with a range of arts programs.
Of special note are the two galleries where students can be actively involved in either gallery management opportunities or displaying their artwork. The Red Dot Gallery is located on Santa Fe’s famed Canyon Road and the Visual Arts Gallery is located on the Santa Fe Community College campus.
These endeavors are not strictly independent ventures. SFCC partners with other colleges in the area like IAIA and Santa Fe University of Art and Design when planning shows and displays of artwork.
Further, the programs at SFCC are not limited to the two-dimensional arts. They offer programs in jewelry, wood and sculpture as well. While the community college may not have the cachet that a four-year university has, Grissom explains that SFCC appeals to different audiences.
“We have younger students who are getting their first two years completed and moving on to universities, as well as older students who are re-careering.”
For both young artists and older artists, there are additional options in film, media arts and fashion design.
A multitude of opportunities for those interested in the arts can be found at New Mexico’s largest school, the University of New Mexico. Dr. Kymberly Pinder, dean of Fine Arts at UNM, is enthusiastic about the varied offerings at UNM.
“We have a very large Fine Arts program and a diversity of programs … music, dance, theater, art, art education, theory, ceramics, photography and sculpture are just a few of the many programs.”
One of the programs that has received national recognition is the photography program. Pinder says that it has been listed at the top of many rankings for many years. Founded in 1962, she describes it as a very “competitive program that draws international students and is a core program in a very photo-centric state such as New Mexico.”
Pinder takes pride in drawing international students to UNM and the “uniquely multi-cultural aspects of the state” that drive their Fine Arts program. Citing the Native American, Latin American and Spanish Colonial imprints on the culture of New Mexico, she says students can “plumb the richness” of these influences in the Fine Arts programs at UNM.
According to Pinder, the needs and interests of students are very important to UNM and student feedback has resulted in some innovative programs. For example, UNM offers a interdisciplinary programs because the university noticed that many students took a lot of classes in the arts but would leave the college when they wanted other types of studies outside of the arts. By offering these programs, students can have the best of both worlds.
And UNM offers a culturally unique program: a flamenco program. UNM offers a rare dance program where students can receive a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Fine Arts degree with a concentration in Flamenco. In fact, every year the Department of Music and Dance helps host the International Flamenco Festival.
Another innovative program is the Arts and Medicine program. Pinder marvels at the idea that a “flagship university like UNM with an extensive health sciences center provides arts programming and therapy.” With studies showing that the arts help patients heal faster, the linking of these two disciplines makes sense and is an idea that enriches the community.
The Santa Fe community and New Mexico are fortunate to have another school that highlights the treasures of New Mexico and Native American culture in the Institute of American Indian Arts. Charlene Teters, the Academic Dean of the College at IAIA, describes it as the “flagship of arts and culture for Native people.”
IAIA offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and associate degrees in studio arts, museum studies, creative writing, performing arts and cinematic studies.
Teters says, “IAIA has had a significant impact on the local Santa Fe economy, as Santa Fe has emerged as the leading market for Indian arts in the world, and in turn, made it easier for Native American artists to sell their work.” She also notes that “while study programs include traditional elements, the school is different because it teaches from the Native American point of view.”
All levels welcome
Teaching every level of student artists is a major focus at Central New Mexico Community College, according to Erica Volkers, dean of CNM’s School of Communication, Humanities and Social Sciences. Volkers says that what sets CNM apart is the fact that they “accept every student, no matter what their art background, or other academic preparation, and our instructors work with them from where they are to help nurture their skills.”
CNM has a Fine Arts degree with an Art Studio concentration and an Art History concentration. They also offer a Bench Jewelry certificate. In the arts programs, they offer courses in the areas of ceramics, painting, printmaking, drawing and jewelry.
Of special interest is the partnership CNM has with the National Hispanic Cultural Center in establishing the National Hispanic Arts Institute and Workshop (NHAIW). Volkers says that “one of the core purposes of this institute is to celebrate, preserve and grow traditional Latino art forms.”
The new NHAIW is tentatively scheduled to open in fall 2017. It is her hope that “ultimately, this artistic space and the expertise it cultivates will generate economic activity, including being a tourism destination for art aficionados.”
Volkers says “the NHAIW is designed to nurture, enrich and expand the artistic and entrepreneurial experiences of our community’s artists, and draw in local and national art aficionados, and art students, to build upon New Mexico’s reputation as a national destination for artistic inspiration.”
Over the years, New Mexico has earned its reputation as a national destination for artistic inspiration and continues to strengthen that status with foundational, creative, and unusual arts programs at both community colleges, institutes and universities. Art students and art aficionados alike can find a multitude of treasures here with the riches of Native American, Latin American and Spanish Colonial influences that mark New Mexico’s past and present.