When voters in the state get to the polls in the upcoming election they’ll find a GO Bond item on the ballot for funding for a new Center for Collaborative Arts and Technology at The University of New Mexico. The UNM College of Fine Arts is asking for $45 million for the new facility, which will replace the current building, which was built in 1963 to serve a much smaller student body, and condense the current number of CFA buildings.

Harris Smith
Harris Smith, dean of CFA

The new facility will not only benefit students but also the community and state, according to CFA dean Harris Smith. If approved, the new CCAT would guarantee a topnotch education for the students, help with recruiting talented students and faculty, and anchor an arts district in Albuquerque, which means more foot traffic to local businesses. The arts and culture industry contributes significantly to the state’s economy and brings in visitors from around the world.

The GO Bond 3 for Higher Education request totals $45 million for Phase I of the project. The overall project cost for Phase 1 of the two-phase project is $65 million for 62,100 GSF building that will contain exhibition spaces, theater and music rehearsal spaces, and a large music concert hall. This estimate ensures that the project will address the cost premium that is unique to fine arts facilities, as well as the ever-increasing construction costs in a post-pandemic market.

The 50+ year-old Center for Fine Arts building is showing its age, Smith said. Built long before the prevalence of computers and wireless technology, there are missing ceiling tiles, cracked floors, leaky roof, asbestos, and classrooms in the basement that wi-fi often can’t penetrate.

Besides its age, the CFA has long outgrown its current space. The Center for Fine Arts building, which will be replaced, houses Music, parts of Theatre and Dance, parts of Art, and the Fine Arts Museum. The CFA currently serves about 1,300 students enrolled in the department and 30,000 credit hours for students across the whole university.

“What folks don’t seem to understand and it’s important that they get is the negative impact aging buildings has on our students,” Smith remarked. “Currently the College of Fine Arts occupies 13 buildings but those 13 buildings have an average age of 59 years. All these buildings were created before computers, internet, and wi-fi, and just don’t have the capability and the bandwidth to support the things that we need to do if we want to stay current as a college and current with our programs.”

CFA Statistics and Accolades

  • Rankings: 8th in the nation for MFA Photography; 4th among public universities for MFA Photography; 64th for MFA.
  • Recipient of prestigious awards and major grants, including in 2022: Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Lannan Foundation, Howard Foundation Award, Luce Foundation Indigenous Knowledge Fellowship, and the Crossing Latinidades Humanities Research Initiative.
  • Home of the UNM Center for Environmental Arts and Humanities, a Category I interdisciplinary research center, which recently received a grant of $500,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation.
  • Art History professor Kirsten Pai Buick was recognized with the “Distinguished Scholar” award by the College Art Association in February 2022.
  • Pueblo Pottery professor Clarence Cruz of the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo is a curator and participant in the current traveling exhibition “Grounded in Clay” at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Santa Fe; Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Vilcek Foundation, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and Saint Louis Art Museum.
  • Inaugural Visiting Artist in Design: The department is hosting a visiting artist in Design for Fall 2022 who will give a public lecture, workshops, and student critiques.
  • Host of the 2022 New Mexico Art Education Association conference, Nov. 4-6.

Susanne Anderson-Riedel, Department of Art Chair and associate professor of Art History, pointed out that the aging buildings offer little space for faculty offices or to adjust classrooms to new curriculum needs.

“Making art has changed dramatically over the past 50 years since our current building was constructed,” she said. “To stay current with the developments and to be able to prepare our students for the contemporary art world, we need spaces that support contemporary art practice, current art historical forms of investigation, and pedagogical methods. The GO Bond promises to support a visionary building project with spaces for galleries, public engagement, collaborative and interdisciplinary art studios, and contemporary classrooms that will allow students and faculty to work and create in adaptable, up-to-date spaces. The CCAT will support our vision of collaboration, integration, and interdisciplinarity and it will support New Mexico's contemporary arts community over the coming decades.”

James D. Stone, associate professor and chair of the Film & Digital Arts department, said the new building would ensure that his department would have enough space to educate the unprecedentedly high number of students registering for the bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Film Production.

“The department has seen a huge increase in majors and pre-majors over the last six years, from 256 to 616, making it one of the fastest growing programs at UNM. If we are to continue offering students a cutting-edge digital media education, high-end facilities are vitally important,” Stone said, adding, “Our program is having a tremendous impact on students. Many are getting jobs in the burgeoning New Mexico film industry, while our alumni are finding success at a wide variety of prestigious and influential companies such as Industrial Light and Magic, Lucasfilm, and Netflix.”

The film industry has a substantial impact on the state’s economy.

“Even after the coronavirus pandemic shut down filming for months on sets around the country, New Mexico broke its own records for film and TV production spending, reaching about $623 million in the fiscal year from July 2020 to July 2021, according to the New Mexico Film Office. State officials say that about 9,000 residents work in the industry, with an average annual wage of about $56, 000,” said a story in The New York Times. Netflix, cited by Stone, is responsible for much of the growth, buying ABQ Studios production complex in 2018 and committing to spend $1 billion in New Mexico, and, in November 2020, announcing plans to expand operations and invest an additional $1 billion.

Chair of the music department and associate professor of Voice Michael Hix noted the growth in his department since the building’s construction in the 1960s.

“Due to the hard work of the excellent students, support staff, world-renowned faculty, and administrators in the Department of Music over many decades, the program has more than tripled what the original facilities were designed for. This investment in UNM will dramatically improve and expand the educational experiences for our students, many of whom are training to be the next generation of music educators across New Mexico. In this way, we are not simply investing in the education of UNM students, but the generations of elementary, middle, and high school students they will teach. Many students will go on to enjoy high-profile careers as arts leaders, composers, and performers. Investing in our facilities will make the future generations of Lobos even more competitive in the professional music world,” Hix said.

Keeping young people in the state is another benefit of a state-of-the-art facility, Smith noted.

“A lot of folks have talked about the brain drain in the state, and trying to keep our students in the state, so that’s part of our responsibility, or a lot of our responsibility as well, is trying to support the growing creative industry, and making sure first that our students are trained and that they’re competitive within the industry and also trying to grow the industry within the state so we can keep those students here and continue to contribute to the creative industry here in the state of New Mexico,” Smith said.

“The Art Department's graduate and undergraduate programs are central to the university and the State of New Mexico. The program is growing in student numbers and in program offerings. Our faculty and students represent the diversity of New Mexico and its cultural strengths. Our programs have a long history of excellence. The photography program is ranked eighth in the nation and fourth among public universities. We have a strong reputation for excellence in the study of the History of Art and our faculty is nationally and internationally renowned. In addition, we offer the only licensure program in Art Education in the State of New Mexico. Our students deserve to learn on the highest level and with adequate equipment and spaces to explore their creativity. Upon graduation, they shape the artistic future in New Mexico's classrooms, in galleries, museums, and in higher education,” Anderson-Riedel said.

Smith said the GO Bond will give voters the opportunity to support the students and the arts in the community and state.

“We are the largest fine studio arts college in the state and we have a lot of impact and influence with our students and across the state, so to have a GO Bond that’s going to support something as impactful as this is pivotal and can have a long-lasting effect economically and culturally,” he said.

Voting dates

  • Absentee Voting Begins: 
    Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022 
  • Early Voting: 
    Saturday, Oct. 22 - Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022
  • Election Day:
    Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022

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