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Regarding my three years at the Doña Ana Arts Council, to quote Charles Dickens, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
What was “best” about it was that I got to be in charge of an organization that has been very effectively promoting, encouraging, and inspiring the arts for half a century. During my time in charge, we emphasized reaching the broadest spectrum of our community through the widest range of the arts. I got to work with great people on the Board of Directors, on the staff, under contract, and in the community. We successfully partnered with six other public and private entities to bring STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) learning experiences to young people in public elementary schools. We collaborated with the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico to kick into gear an Artspace feasibility study on artist live/work spaces. We saw a former DAArts director and a DAArts art history instructor start up a separate service combining art history classes with tours to premier art museums. We moved into a spectacular space for our galleries adjacent to the Arts and Cultural District, and when new ownership of that space made it necessary to move on, we found a fantastic location actually in the Arts and Cultural District, one that will become a more permanent home for the Arts Council, if not the permanent home.
We also began showing art again, occasionally, in the gallery at the Rio Grande Theatre, and on March 22, we will again have a musical performance there in the auditorium that the Doña Ana Arts Council was so instrumental in bringing back into service for our community.
What was "worst" about the three years was that a pandemic forced us to close the galleries and cancel shows, classes, camps, performances, and art fairs. That resulted in strained finances, loss of volunteers, disconnections from people and events that had long been staples for the Arts Council. We had to be resourceful and innovative, not always with great success.
However, what forced us out of our comfort zone had us looking at how we remain viable, sustainable, and pertinent in our community. The future of the arts and their powerful impact on our community's pride and economy, along with support from members of our community remained sources of inspiration. Sadly, several supporters passed away during the three years. Still, two of them left significant legacies for the Arts Council in their wills, and a number of other supporters, still very happily alive, have also stepped up in significant ways financially. We now have an Advisory Council providing great input for consideration by the Board of Directors, and we have been able to return to some of the pre-pandemic activities as well as consider new, important directions.
Since Ken has said he won't be running for mayor next year, one question that has come up, even before people know I am leaving this position, is whether I will run for mayor again. The answer is, "No." Ten years ago, I had five things I wanted to accomplish as a member of the City Council. I believed our community would benefit from all of downtown Main Street being reopened, having a plaza downtown, moving the Museum of Art into the historic Post Office building, having a Community Olympic Pool, and establishing an Historic Preservation Ordinance. I saw four of those things become real during my time on the Council or in the years immediately following, and I still believe the Museum of Art move can happen in my lifetime.
While working on those goals, I was also part of getting better collaboration with the Community of Hope established, getting a new MVRDA (911 call center) built, seeing a new Animal Services Center planned, and the establishment of Lynn Middle School as a Community School. In 2019, I believed I could do more for our community as mayor, but my experience since then with the Arts Council has helped me know that a lot can still be accomplished coming at goals from different directions. My sincere hope is that other motivated and inspired individuals will step up to run for elected office.
About sixty-five years ago, I wanted to be a railroad engineer, an architect, and an author when I grew up. While becoming a railroad engineer was pretty quickly abandoned, all these years later, I find I still want to design homes and write books. The side trips into teaching, politics, and non-profits have been very constructive and informative, and there may actually be an opportunity for me to teach again on a very limited basis. Nonetheless, I am finally comfortable saying I'm retiring from one last, daily job and focusing my future years on family, architecture, writing, and travel.