Historically, relationships between artists and their patrons were fraught with an imbalance of power, based predominantly on wild disparities in class and economic status. A modern-day patron takes many forms, and a shining example can be found in Dean Kymberly Pinder of the College of Fine Arts (CFA) at The University of New Mexico.
In the world of curriculum, Pinder has made myriad efforts to ensure professional development and training for CFA students. Working with Nusenda Credit Union’s community outreach department, Pinder implemented free events on financial literacy for artists. The idea was to provide a form of career counseling for the arts, along with how to manage your money while living a gig-based life.
That training is now included in a mandatory seminar for all MFA students in the College of Fine Arts, and Pinder hopes to enact the same requirement for undergrads. She dismisses the notion that artists are doomed to lives of strife and poverty.
“They can have careers and good jobs (in the arts),” she says. “It’s not a lie.”
In today’s intersectional, mixed-media landscape, Pinder also believes it’s essential for artists to have a broad scope of interests and abilities, which is why she enacted classes like Coding for Fine Artists.
“I think one of the most important things for a fine artist is that they have a wide range of skill sets,” Pinder says. “That doesn’t mean they’re not going to work in their artistic passion; it just allows them to be very flexible.”
In addition to practical tools and training, Pinder’s greatest legacy takes the form of breaking down barriers – both literal and figurative – by launching CFA and the World, a program providing travel grants for CFA students.
Many UNM faculty working in the College of Fine Arts have connections to the international arts community. As a result, faculty are often invited to participate in fine arts events and happenings around the world.
Pinder had learned that if a faculty member wanted to take their CFA students on one of these trips – to participate in training, a performance, a festival, etc. – they were only able to take students who could afford to pay for the airfare. Once they reach their destination, other expenses are usually taken care of by the host artist/program. But students who couldn’t spare money for a plane ticket were denied the opportunity to experience these professional artistic events, across the U.S. and around the world.
In January 2013, Dean Pinder wondered how to make the most of a donated fund (known as the Dean’s Circle Fund) that was traditionally used for a variety of needs, such as student supplies or faculty travel.
“And I thought, wait a minute, I have this pot of money that people donate to,” Pinder says. “Why don’t we see… If I make this money available to students (in the form of travel funds they can apply for), let’s see how many more of them will get to go somewhere, to have a new experience out in the world.”
As a requirement of the grant, students who receive it must write to Dean Pinder about their experience. She then takes their stories and shares them with donors, inspiring them to help the fund continue to grow.
“The donors now get these great stories from local Albuquerque kids who say things like, ‘I never would’ve left New Mexico (without this travel grant),’” Pinder says.
While the College of Fine Arts is the only UNM college that has a grant dedicated to travel, the CFA often works in conjunction with the Global Education Office (GEO) to help students with their sights set on experiences abroad. The GEO encourages students to apply for the CFA travel grant, and CFA admin and faculty encourage students to apply for additional program funds through the GEO.
The CFA travel grant experiences encompass numerous professional opportunities – performing, attending conferences, taking classes, teaching, competing, and so on. Since 2013, CFA students have traveled within the U.S. for events like the Boston Conservatory Conference, to learn about teaching music to kids with autism, and the Society for Photographic Education National Conference in Orlando, FL., to present on queer photography. Internationally, UNM CFA students have attended the Lindlar International Piano Competition in Germany, a painting program at Studio Ginestrelle in Umbria, Italy, and the study abroad opportunity “Arts and Health in Sub-Saharan Africa” in Malawi (to name a few).
All told, CFA in the World travel grants have funded $90,000 worth of travel expenses for UNM’s College of Fine Arts students. The most surprising part, Pinder says, are the long-term effects of these adventures; how travel opens up the world for students and inspires them to do more.
“I started finding out – ever since the first crop of students received these grants in 2013 – that once they have this experience, students find ways to get themselves back to Australia, to get back to Paris,” Pinder says. “They now pursue grants; they invest in themselves. That was something I didn’t even think about.”
Pinder is gearing up to pass the baton to a new CFA dean at the end of 2018. In just six short years, Pinder’s dedication and abundant contributions to developing professional artists ensure that her legacy will live on at UNM for decades to come.