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New perspectives

University Art Museum grant to support growth, improve operations

The largest supporter of the arts and humanities in the nation awarded more than $500 million in 2021 to a range of projects across the United States and Puerto Rico. The University Art Museum at NMSU was among those invited to apply for the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Art Museum Futures Fund. NMSU’s art museum received a $300,000 grant for museum operations over the next two years.

“These funds make it possible for us to take the next step toward our vision of growth, including improving operations and hiring a collections curator,” says Marisa Sage, director of the University Art Museum. “With this support, we can expand public access to collections and holistically support artists throughout the creation and exhibition process.”

Sage’s proposal, completed with the help of Allison Layfield, NMSU Foundation development officer, details the art museum’s efforts since 2016 to “shape public understanding of the intrinsic value of art in our diverse community, both on and off campus, by presenting exhibitions and acquisitions that more accurately reflect this region.”

The University Art Museum introduced more inclusive practices and programs to welcome all members of the community to engage with art. Sage also acquired new works by femme-identifying, LGBTQ+ artists as well as artists who are Black, Indigenous and people of color. Projects and acquired commissions by Wendy Red Star, Christine Nguyen, Justin Favela, Las Hermanas Iglesias and Lenka Clayton exemplify how Sage and Museum Coordinator Jasmine Herrera worked to collect diverse perspectives that engaged with people and topics important to the borderlands.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the University Art Museum transitioned to an all-online exhibition format, reaching 8,000 people worldwide through web-based galleries, live performances and free interactive workshops created by regional artist mothers. 

“The College of Arts and Sciences is proud of the work Marisa, her team and the Department of Art have accomplished over the past five years and especially their creativity in expanding outreach by sharing their exhibitions with a national and international audience during the pandemic,” says Enrico Pontelli, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. 

The Mellon Foundation works with artists, curators, conservators, scholars and organizations to ensure equitable access to excellent arts and cultural experiences, reaching out to colleges, universities and other organizations that embrace equity in higher learning, with a focus on historically underserved populations, including nontraditional and incarcerated students. 

“To create a more inclusive and equitable arts ecosystem in the borderlands region, the UAM recognizes its need as a museum to play a larger role in supporting a diversity of artists and museumgoers who face a myriad of health, financial, housing and other systemic injustices,” Sage says. “Using funds awarded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the UAM commits to increasing our role in racial and gender equity by mitigating institutional barriers to sharing artwork by underrepresented artists in our collections, exhibitions and programming.” 

Examples of the art museum’s commitment to supporting a diversity of perspectives that impact the Southwest include the exhibitions, “Four Sites of Return: Ritual, Remembrance, Reparation and Reclamation,” which features works by Nikesha Breeze and ran from January 2022 to March 2022, and “Contemporary Ex-Votos: Devotion Beyond Medium,” curated by Emmanuel Ortega, set to open in September 2022. 

The NMSU Art Museum is free and open to the public and all aspects of these exhibitions will be available online and in person, including programming. Learn more about upcoming exhibitions and the NMSU Permanent Art Collection at