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New art facility welcomes community with architectural grace, appreciation

With her wide-eyed windows open to University Avenue, Devasthali Hall introduced herself to the Las Cruces community Feb. 28, 2020, with music, performance art and words of praise and thanks, as NMSU leaders cut the ribbon on the new home to the Department of Art and University Art Museum.

NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu and President John Floros shared their gratitude to the community, while U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich sent representatives to share their congratulations on the grand opening of Devasthali Hall.

“This building is here because the voters of the state of New Mexico recognize the value of art and recognize the value of art in this particular community,” says Julia Barello, head of the Department of Art in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The new art facility supports a wide variety of media-based research in museum conservation, ceramics, drawing and painting, graphic design, jewelry, metalsmithing, photography, printmaking, sculpture and art history.

More than 1,600 people crowded together to see the architectural wonders of the building, take tours of the studios and classrooms, and honor the couple whose name the building bears.

Ammu and Rama Devasthali have devoted much of their lives to advancing arts in southern New Mexico. They have contributed just under $2.8 million to the arts at NMSU. The new art facility was years in the making with members of the community raising millions in funding for more than 10 years to support NMSU’s new art space, along with the $22.5 million general obligation bond approved by voters in November 2016.

“We know for a fact that in our great state of New Mexico, arts and culture are strong economic drivers,” says Ammu Devasthali, the NMSU Regent who led local efforts to build the new art facility. “We are all vested in the arts, and that is the reason why this facility, more than any other built recently on campus, has captured the imagination, not only of our students, faculty and staff, but also of the community of Las Cruces.”

The grand opening continued Feb. 29, 2020, with art workshops open to the public. The celebration also included the opening reception for “Labor: Motherhood & Art in 2020,” the premier exhibition in the University Art Museum. However, the exhibition had to be converted into a series of virtual tours and workshops through May 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 related shutdown of campus.

“In the visual arts, we focus on research in materials and technologies to solve problems and express our ideas,” Barello says. “This need to express beliefs and construct self-identity runs deep in humans as evidenced by thousands of years of artistic expression. Art is a critical tool of communication, which never grows old and always remains relevant.”



NMSU Regent Ammu Devasthali (above) spoke at the grand opening celebration for the newest building on campus, Devasthali Hall, which is home to the Department of Art and University Art Museum. Devasthali and her husband Rama are champions for the arts in southern New Mexico. Guests (top) toured Devasthali Hall during the grand opening celebration February 2020. Community support and a $22.5 million general obligation bond approved by New Mexico voters funded the project.