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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue: October 28, 2002
Volume 38, Number 8

Taos expansion based on great programs

By Carolyn Gonzales

Runnefeld with student-made easel.Taos and the arts have always been synonymous. Founding artists such as Victor Higgins, Kenneth Adams, Nicolai Fechin, W.H. Buck Dunton and Ernest L. Blumenschein found inspiration in this area. So have their contemporaries such as Dennis Haggerty, Judith Hilmer, Lori Malott and others. The arts community and Taos have, historically, supported and encouraged each other.

The tradition continues at UNM-Taos where the Academy of Arts and Culture is the school’s “bread and butter,” according to James Rannefeld, UNM-Taos dean of Instruction.

UNM-Taos offers several certificate and associate programs in the arts. “They are degrees that allow individuals to become self-employed or work for other artists. Some students transfer their work into studio arts programs at UNM main campus, others to national art schools,” he said. Since the school combines theoretical and practical art skills, students can also use computers to become graphic artists or gallery owners.

“We provide them with a well-rounded education. In the Associate of Applied Science program students may take math, languages, and history as well as their art coursework,” said Rannefeld. And some students use art to help others. “We are proposing an art therapy course through general studies,” he says.

With a strong Academy of Arts & Culture as well as other academies — Business & Computer Technology, Health & Human Services, Professions & Liberal Arts, Sciences and, finally, Trades & Industry— UNM-Taos needed to expand.

UNM-Taos Klauer Campus, summer 2002.The Klauer Campus, located on 88 acres of land, was donated to the university by the Klauer family. It will provide the school with the much-needed expansion room. Funded by a $2 million GO Bond, Phase I was started in 1997 and it is now complete. It gives the school 8,000 sq. ft. of classroom and laboratory space in the Padre Martínez Building as well as 3,500 sq. ft. for a woodshop and computer lab in the Fred Peralta Building.

Groundbreaking for the new art center took place recently for Phase II. It was funded by a $1.25 million GO Bond. The 8.900 sq. ft. center will house painting, drawing, printings, ceramics, photography and a metal arts studio within it.

UNM-Taos has also received money through a Perkins grant for vocational courses. “We can’t use the funds for studio arts, but we can use it for applied arts,” said Rannefeld. “Our computer labs are equipped with both PCs and Macs because graphic artists make use of Macs.” The computer room furniture was designed and built by students in the woodworking shop.

Phase III is scheduled to be funded by GO Bond B going before the voters in November. Classrooms, science and computer labs will fill the 15,000 sq. ft.

Additionally, UNM-Taos will address campus landscaping if they receive the $3.152 million should the bond issue pass.

Phase IV is still in the planning stages and includes a library, a student center, a physical plant and a trades building.

Wynn Goering, former interim campus director of UNM-Taos, involved the staff and faculty in planning the new facilities. “We have been able to establish what we need out of the gate rather than retrofitting it at a later date, which is much more difficult,” said Larry Torres, Head of the Academy of Arts & Culture. Torres also doubles as a lecturer, visual artist, performance artist, cultural historian and linguist.

Artists at UNM-Taos were invited to share their input in the new art building design. Their suggestions included such things as clay traps instead of grease traps in the ceramics rooms, directional lighting with each fixture on its own switch for painting and drawing, floor drains in dry storage and photography rooms and appropriate air in-take/out-take valves for printing and monotype. All address specific needs of artists in the building.

Not only is the facility expanding, so is the faculty.

“Currently we have 17 art faculty and they’re all adjunct. We will be hiring 15- 20 fulltime faculty in the next five years in all disciplines. Two were hired last year and we expect to hire an additional three this year,” Rannefeld said, noting that the plan is to add a faculty member to each field to provide some long-term stability.

Developing the Klauer Campus has helped the school in its successful bid to become a full-fledged UNM branch in 2003. Increased funding, $750,000 over the next five years, is one of the driving forces behind the school’s ability to hire new faculty.

Being a branch campus has associated costs, too. “We pay fees to main campus for legal aid, facility planning, bookkeeping, fiscal advice, and they provide administrative support,” said Rannefeld.

UNM-Taos has seen a 400 percent increase in funding over the last three years. “After the county passed a 2 mill levy, we received grant funding and had tuition increases. We run a tight ship. The community has always supported UNM-Taos so we stretch their money as far as we can,” he said.

Rannefeld acknowledges that the school will reach a plateau in its enrollment.

“There are only 20,000 people in the county and we have almost 1,600 students enrolled. In the future, if we intend to grow, we will need to court students from outside of the community and begin to build student housing.” he said.

Some of the art courses that UNM-Taos offers include pottery, ceramics, two and three-dimensional design, figure drawing, landscape painting, portrait painting, watercolor, printmaking, jewelry, blownglass, photography and art history. These classes are all in response to requests from the community.

“The classes are capped at 12 to 15 students in order to ensure the quality of the education,” said Torres. “When we were limited to art studio classes we could only attract between 50-60 students. Now, with applied arts on board, we can attract as many as 250 students per semester. That’s roughly a quarter of our total student enrollment.”

Glassblowing is a relatively new offering within the curriculum. “Dale Chihully is a pioneer in blown glass. He introduced glassblowing in Taos. Now we offer glass blowing at UNM-Taos. Despite the $250 course fee —most art classes ordinarily have fees between $25 and $40— glassblowing classes continue to fill up, even to the point of bringing in students from other states!” he said.

Much of the furniture in the art classrooms was designed and built by the students in woodshop classes. The woodshop students get credit and practical experience and the arts program gets equipment at the cost of materials only.

“It’s a win/win situation,” said Rannefeld. He also adds that more than 600 students have gone through the woodworking program in the last four years.

Torres says that the UNM-Taos course catalog cover features work by students in the art program. “At the annual student art show students get to exhibit their work. A blue ribbon panel of judges selects two pieces to grace the cover; one for the fall and one for the spring. The winner gets professional exposure of his work and that student’s bio appears in the catalog. It’s a great incentive,” he said. “It also shows how we are different from UNM-Albuquerque and from the other branches.”

Art isn’t always about creating a masterpieces; it’s about stretching creativity past the limit. That’s what UNM-Taos is all about.