The New Mexico State University Art Museum is among a select group across the country to receive a competitive grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The art museum was among those invited to apply for a grant of between $150,000 and $500,000 from the Mellon Foundation’s Art Museum Futures Fund. The $300,000 grant will be used to support general operations for the NMSU Art Museum.
“We are ecstatic and proud to have been chosen by the Mellon Foundation to receive this grant, which will have a sustained impact on our operations at the art museum, particularly over the next two years,” said Marisa Sage, director of the University Art Museum. “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. With this support, we can expand public access to collections and holistically support artists throughout the creation and exhibition process.”
Sage’s proposal 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.”
NMSU’s 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 Inglesisa and Lenka Clayton exemplify how Sage, Jasmine Herrera, art museum coordinator, and Allison Layfield, NMSU Foundation development officer, worked to collect diverse perspectives that engaged with people and topics important to the borderlands. See a walk-through of the gallery for “Labor: Motherhood & Art in 2020.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the NMSU 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. Adjusting to the pandemic served as a learning experience and an opportunity to increase community access beyond the border region.
“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,” said Enrico Pontelli, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “This award is a prestigious but well-deserved recognition for such hard work and commitment. With the support of the Melon Foundation, they can build on their progress and broaden exposure for diverse artistic voices and grow community engagement in southern New Mexico and beyond.”
As the largest supporter of the arts and humanities in the nation, the Mellon Foundation awarded more than $500 million in 2021 to a range of projects across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. It is the largest giving year in the Mellon Foundation’s 52-year history.
The Mellon Foundation works with artists, curators, conservators, scholars and organizations to ensure equitable access to excellent arts and cultural experiences. The organization reaches 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 it’s 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,” said Sage. “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 runs from Jan. 21 through March 5, and “Contemporary Ex-Votos: Devotion Beyond Medium,” curated by Emmanuel Ortega, set to open in September.
Breeze’s exhibition includes the work “Stages of Tectonic Blackness: Blackdom”, a two-channel video documenting a performance centered in the 20th century Black freedom town called Blackdom, New Mexico – the state’s first all-Black freedom colony. Ortega’s exhibition juxtaposes Mexican retablos from the NMSU Permanent Art Collection with new works by emergent Latinx artists.
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 all upcoming exhibitions and the NMSU Permanent Art Collection by visiting the UAM website.