The College of Fine Arts at The University of New Mexico recently recognized five graduates with Distinguished Alumni Awards for achieving outstanding success and making significant contributions to their fields. These alumni have demonstrated excellence, creativity, and innovation in areas such as visual arts, performing arts, music, design, or other artistic disciplines.

The 2024 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients include Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Department of Art; Brian Levant, Department of Film & Digital Arts; Col. Jim Keene, Department of Music, and Marisol Encinias for Dance and Andrea Fellows Fineberg. for Theater for the Department of Theatre & Dance.

Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Jaune Quick-to-See Smith
Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Jaune Quick-to-See Smith

Jaune Quick-To-See Smith
1980 Master of Fine Arts degree

Smith is a citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation. She calls herself a cultural arts worker. She uses humor and satire to examine myths, stereotypes, and the paradox of American Indian life in contrast to the consumerism of American society. Her work is philosophically centered by her strong traditional beliefs and political activism.

Smith is internationally known as an artist, curator, lecturer, printmaker, free-lance professor, and mentor. Smith was the first Native American to have a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art, titled Memory Map in 2023which is currently traveling across the U.S.

During her 40-plus year career, Smith has organized and curated over 30 Native exhibitions, given over 200 lectures at museums and universities internationally, and has shown in over 125 solo exhibits and over 650 group exhibitions.

Her work is in collections worldwide, such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Brooklyn Museum; the Museum of Modern Art in Ecuador; and the Whitney Museum in New York.

Smith earned a Bachelor of Art Education degree at Framingham State in Massachusetts and a Master of Fine Arts degree at UNM.

Col. Jim R. Keene
1988 Bachelor of Music degree

Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Col. Jim Keene and CFA Dean Harris Smith
Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Col. Jim Keene and CFA Dean Harris Smith

A native of Albuquerque, Keene has led thousands of performances, including for six U.S. presidents. He led multiple televised productions, most recently earning a New York Emmy Award for Songs of Service and a Grammy Award for Best Immersive Album in 2022 as conductor of the United States Army Field Band.

Keene was leader of the U.S. Army Field Band and the U.S. Military Academy Band, commandant of the Army School of Music, and served the United States Army Band Pershing's Own as director of the Army Chorus. He has also led the Army Strings, Army Orchestra, U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus, and the Ground Forces Band. He led the Joint Forces Chorus at the memorial service for President George H. W. Bush, and music for the interments of presidents Ronald Reagan and Gerald R. Ford. He has conducted the New York Philharmonic, The Detroit Symphony, the New York Philharmonic, The Boston Pops, the Japan Central Band, and the Dallas Winds and has performed with numerous artists including Ray Charles.

Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Brian Levant and CFA Dean Harris Smith
Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Brian Levant and CFA Dean Harris Smith

Brian Levant
1974 Bachelor of University Studies degree

Levant has been at the creative helm of some of the biggest franchises in family entertainment. Nearly every year since the late 1970s, Levant has lectured and worked with film students at UNM, including teaching his own course Sitcom Boot Camp.

After his name appeared on over 400 episodes of television, including being a show runner on Happy Days and Mork & Mindy, Levant turned his attention to directing feature films including the original Beethoven, the Steven Spielberg-produced box office juggernaut The Flintstones, the holiday classic Jingle All the Way starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Are We There Yet? with Ice Cube, and the 2010 Jackie Chan vehicle, The Spy Next Door, which was shot in Albuquerque.

Marisol Encinias
2008 Bachelor of Art and 2012 Master of Fine Art degrees

Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Marisol Encinias and team
Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Marisol Encinias and team

Encinias is an associate professor of dance within the UNM Department of Theatre & Dance.

As a fourth-generation flamenco dancer, Encinias began studying this historic form of dance at the age of 5 with her grandmother Clarita Garcia de Aranda. In addition to teaching at UNM, the only university in the U.S. to offer a degree in Flamenco, she is currently the executive director of the National Institute of Flamenco (NIF), a nonprofit arts organization founded by her mother Eva Encinias, in 1982. Encinias has taught at NIF since 1990 and has served as the artistic director and curator for the annual Festival Flamenco Internacional. Encinias is also credited with helping to found Tierra Adentro, a charter school that offers a model of culturally relevant and academic success in New Mexico.

Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Andrea Fellows Fineberg and CFA Dean Harris Smith
Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Andrea Fellows Fineberg and CFA Dean Harris Smith

Andrea Fellows Fineberg
1990 Bachelor of Art degree

Fellows Fineberg has been with Santa Fe Opera for more than 33 years and director of community engagement since 1993. She brings a deeply rooted love and appreciation for the performing arts to her work as administrator, educator, producer, and co-host for the award-winning podcast Key Change. As a librettist she collaborated with John Kennedy on Trinity and Stephen Paulus on Shoes for the Santo Niño. In 2016, UnShakeable, with composer-conductor Joseph Illick, premiered in Santa Fe. For Dayton Opera she wrote an original dialogue for The Magic Flute and The Abduction from the Seraglio and, in February of 2022, saw the world premiere of Finding Wright with composer Laura Kaminsky.

As a collaborative artist, Fineberg founded and worked with the Academy for the Love of Learning’s Lifesongs¸ writing original, musical narratives with individuals in hospice care since its inception in 2007.

“It is time to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of the alumni of The UNM College of Fine Arts,” said Harris Smith, dean of UNM Fine Arts. “Next year, 2025, will mark the 125th year of the Department of Theatre and the 95th year of the Department of Fine Arts at UNM. The Bachelor of Arts was first offered in the College of Arts and Sciences at UNM in 1916. Since then, many creative professionals have built their careers on the fine arts education that they enjoyed at The University of New Mexico. These Distinguished Alumni represent our diverse and talented pool of students and the commitment and dedication of our amazing faculty and staff." 

Nominations for the Distinguished Alumni Awards for 2025 will open again in Fall 2024, with a deadline of Feb. 1, 2025. To learn more about the Distinguished Alumni Award and to nominate, please visit the CFA website.

Top image: Distinguished Alumni Awards recipients from left, Hazel Batrezchavez representing Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Col. Jim Keene, Andrea Fellows Fineberg, UNM College of Fine Arts Dean Harris Smith, Brian Levant, and Marisol Encinias.

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