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          Front Page

Tuesday, October 17, 2000

Project Reflects Cultural Influences

By Tracy Dingmann
Of The Journal
    When the National Hispanic Cultural Center of New Mexico opens Saturday, it will reflect the influence of Hispanic cultures from the American Southwest, Mexico, Spain and Central and South America.
    The long-awaited center will be built in three stages. The two-part Phase I, most of which opens this weekend, includes an outdoor brick area called the Plaza Mayor and two main buildings: The newly built Intel Visual Arts and Technology Building and the Research and Literary Arts Building, created from the renovated old River View Elementary School.
    The soaring roof of the visual arts building brings to mind a towering Mayan pyramid. Inside are four art galleries of various sizes wrapped around an outdoor sculpture garden. The 11,000 feet of gallery space will showcase historic and contemporary art from local and international artists in various media. Ongoing programming such as lectures, slide shows and films will educate visitors and students about Hispanic art. Archival and permanent collection space also is included.
    The spacious galleries feature lofty ceilings and high-tech lighting.
    The visual arts building also houses a computer classroom, a photo studio and a broadcast studio to produce local radio and television programs for interactive and distance learning.
    In addition, the building contains the center's executive offices and a small gift shop, La Tiendita, which will carry posters, books and other items.
    The research and literary arts building, made from the old Works Progress Administration school, contains historic treasure in the form of books and photographs.
    The main room of the library will hold more than 10,000 historical books and contain tables made by local artists. A second room will contain rare books and will be available to scholars only. A third room, "the listening room," will have oral histories on videotapes and listening stations to view them. A publications unit will be an outlet for authors specializing in Hispanic themes and topics.
    The genealogical research program will give the public access to one of the world's largest databases for Hispanic families. Materials include books, pedigree charts, microfilm, CD-ROMS and other data formats.
    The research and literary arts building also contains a 4,200- square-foot restaurant offering Hispanic food from around the world and a small ballroom for special events and receptions.
    The Pueblo Revival schoolhouse is itself a historic treasure, and many aspects have been preserved. The adobe walls are a good two feet thick, and in all cases the original windows, vigas and wood flooring were kept.
    The two main buildings are connected by the Plaza Mayor, an expansive brick plaza that will be used for outdoor events. Plaza bricks can be "purchased" by donors for $125 each. An enclosed 100-seat lecture hall is located on the plaza.
    A 2,500-seat amphitheater, which is part of Phase I, will be completed next summer. Possible productions to be staged there include operas and symphony concerts.
    Construction of Phase II is scheduled to conclude in the summer of 2002. Phase II includes a Performing Arts Center dedicated to theater, dance, music and the media and to educating the public about Hispanic contributions to those arts. The center will contain a 700-seat theater/lecture hall, a 150-seat black-box theater and a 300-seat film theater.
    Phase II also includes an International Center housing intellectual programs, lectures and workshops. Think tanks include The Cervantes Institute, The Spanish Resource Center and the Mexican Resource Center. The center also will include a place for artists-in-residence to stay and give workshops and a gift shop, La Tienda, with books, art and gifts. And it is the eventual home of the executive offices.
    Also as part of Phase II, the Culinary Institute will be built adjacent to the research and literary arts building. It will house a 500-square-foot teaching kitchen dedicated to preserving and showcasing Hispanic foods and their methods of preparation.