An angel has found a new home at the University of New Mexico-Gallup. In October, a series of angel pictures by photographer Margo Manaraze becomes a permanent exhibit at the Adult Basic Education Center on north campus.

Manaraze starting snapping photographs over a decade ago to document the positive aspects of Gallup and to promote community pride after a stint of bad press over the city’s high rate of alcoholism.

The pictures and their function developed into a more far-reaching and enduring undertaking as the angel, portrayed by Leaf Ashley, began showing up at homeless shelters, hospitals and food pantries. Garrison Murphy, a young, homeless Navajo boy led a life profoundly affected by the results of fetal alcohol syndrome. He was featured in many of the angel pictures, and eventually became the poster child for a campaign aimed at keeping pregnant women from drinking alcohol.

Manaraze continues to promote her campaign against fetal alcohol syndrome through the formation of the Extol Charitable Foundation whose vision is to “educate, encourage, assist and entertain fellow human beings to address social ills and suffering on the planet including and without limitation racial tension, poverty, all forms of discrimination and implementation and promotion of educational pursuits.” All of the angel photographs embody this mission statement by illustrating the challenges faced by many of our local citizens, and promoting optimism in addressing and overcoming these barriers.

After being on display at Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital (RMCH) for nearly a decade, RMCH, with the blessing of Manaraze, offered to share the collection with the broader community by donating the photographs to UNM-Gallup. The Angel photos will first be on display at the Downtown Business Improvement District office for the September 14 ArtsCrawl, and through the rest of the month, before becoming part of the permanent exhibit at UNM-Gallup.

The Adult Basic Education Center on the UNM-Gallup north campus, much like the Extol Charitable Foundation, is very familiar with the challenges and roadblocks that can impact one’s educational pursuits. The ABE Center promotes learning and life improvement to its students through High School Equivalency preparation, English as a second language and citizenship preparation. The ABE program has consistently performed above expected attainment rates and gives students a safe educational environment that promotes positive learning, sets high standards and believes that all obstacles can be overcome.

In another relevant tribute, Shawn Ashley, the lead instructor at the ABE Center, is the husband of Leaf, the angel pictured in all the photographs.  At the time they were taken, Leaf was a student at UNM-Gallup. She now teaches there part-time.

Once the pictures are on permanent display at the ABE Center, there will be an open house for public viewing of the pictures in their new home.