D.W. Williams Hall is on the fast track. The $22.5 million approved by voters a couple of months ago as part of General Obligation Bond C will turn the 78-year-old gymnasium that currently houses the Department of Art and University Art Gallery into a state-of-the-art visual arts facility for New Mexico State University.
What is unprecedented about this renovation is the level of community support. A fundraising push from a group of local community leaders last year meant the university did not have to wait to access bond monies before starting the design phase.
“Although the funds from the general obligation bond passed in November will not be available until the summer, we are already well underway on the design development phase and should be able to start construction by early next year,” said Heather Zack Watenpaugh, NMSU’s university architect and campus planning officer. “It’s all thanks to members of our community who saw the need and raised $800,000 last year to complete the schematic design phase for the D.W. Williams Hall renovation.”
Ammu Devasthali spearheaded the effort to raise the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to start the design process before the bond was approved. Once construction is complete, an additional $1 million is needed to purchase furnishings and updated equipment for the facility. Devasthali is leading the effort to raise those funds with help from members of the D.W. Williams Hall Renovation Project Committee. Devasthali and her husband Rama have pledged $250,000 in matching funds for those who donate to the D.W. Williams Hall renovation project.
“A new visual arts facility is long overdue,” said Devasthali. “We now have most of the funding to construct the facility, but we need to make sure our amazing art department is well equipped to provide a 21st century arts education for our students.”
“We are very grateful to the D.W. Williams Hall Renovation Project Committee, the NMSU Foundation, our Department of Art faculty, staff, students and, above all, the voters who supported GO Bond C and this much-needed project at NMSU,” said Enrico Pontelli, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “These funds will help us to construct the new building and provide a new home for the talent of our art programs. But our work is not done – we still need to raise additional funds to provide furnishings and art equipment once the facility is complete.”
While much of the current facility is used for teaching, the building also houses the University Art Gallery, which sees over 7,000 visitors each year and has a permanent collection of more than 3,500 artworks, including one of the largest-known retablo collections and a significant holding of modern and contemporary art. The gallery primarily serves the NMSU and borderland communities through original exhibitions and programming that brings globally renowned artists to the area.
“The University Art Gallery welcomes local, regional, national, and international constituencies into New Mexico State University,” said interim director of the gallery Michelle Lanteri “So integral to our state’s identity, the arts and culture industry in New Mexico yields immense economic vitality and growth. The inherent value of the visual arts and its contribution to our diverse communities cannot be underestimated.”
According to a 2014 report commissioned by the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, the arts and culture industry contributes $5.6 billion dollars a year to the state’s economy. Defined broadly, the report shows the arts and culture industry provides 10 percent of all jobs in the state, more than construction and manufacturing combined.
“We have an incredibly deep historic tradition of the arts in the state of New Mexico,” said Julia Barello, professor and NMSU Department of Art academic head. “That’s one thing that makes New Mexico unusual and unique in this country. Santa Fe is the third largest art market in the United States in terms of dollars after New York and L.A. and we are committed to educating students who can actively participate in that market.”
To contribute to the Williams Hall renovation project and have your gift matched by Ammu and Rama Devasthali, visit the NMSU Foundation website at http://nmsu.life/G or contact Andrea Tawney at 575-646-4917.
Author: Minerva Baumann – NMSU