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Home | Tag Archives: tom lea

Tag Archives: tom lea

Tom Lea in National Spotlight as Adair Margo Honored with Major Award

First Lady of El Paso Adair Margo received the prestigious Historic Preservation Medal for her efforts to preserve the work of El Paso artist Tom Lea.

According to the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, their organization presents fewer than 30 of these awards each year.

“This is the most prestigious award the National Society presents to individuals who have done extraordinary volunteer work over a long period of time,“ says Cindy Phillips, National Chair of the NSDAR Historic Preservation Committee. Margo was nominated by the El Paso Stoddert-del Norte Chapter of the NSDAR.

Margo is quick to point the spotlight back onto the artwork she has preserved as founder of the Tom Lea Institute. “This is the first award I’ve gotten in historic preservation. But it really points to the importance of Tom Lea. It’s about preserving what he stood for,” says Margo.

“It’s ours. It’s our roots. Preserving Lea’s art enriches all of our lives when we know where we come from and when you have someone who expressed it so beautifully, visually as well as in writing,” says Margo.

One of the ways the Tom Lea Institute preserves Lea’s art and legacy is through creating curricula for El Paso’s public schools.

“Students say ‘El Paso doesn’t have anything to offer. I’m getting out of here as soon as I can,’ but once they start studying Tom Lea and how he loved this region, they catch that same love. They see El Paso through Tom’s eyes and their own eyes open to the beauty, history, and culture of this region,” says Holly Cobb, Executive Director of the Tom Lea Institute.

The artist, Thomas Calloway Lea III, was born in El Paso. Lea is known as a muralist, illustrator, WWII artist correspondent, novelist, historian, landscapist, and portraitist. Lea never had a gallery until 1993 when he asked Margo to help him with his work. Without her efforts, his work would have been forgotten following his death in 2001.

Founded in 2009, The Tom Lea Institute is located in downtown El Paso. It is a non-profit organization created to engender an appreciation of the art, character, and legacy of Tom Lea through curricula, public programs, exhibits, and publications — all of which have led to the preservation of his work.

The institute recently launched a stunning redesign of its website, to provide visitors, art lovers, and history buffs with enhanced access to the story and work of Tom Lea.

The society honored Margo at a conference in Houston on March 22.

Tom Lea’s Library Mural to be Temporarily Relocated, Displayed at El Paso Museum of History

One of El Paso’s most beloved works of art, Tom and Sarah Lea’s “Southwest,” will be temporarily relocated from its present home at the Main Library to the El Paso Museum of History.

Visitors to Museum of History will be able to study this piece from a new perspective as it will be installed closer to the viewer.

“The temporary move is in preparation of the renovations planned for the Main Library. This was an opportune time to move and reinstall the mural as El Paso will be hosting meetings for museum and public art professionals later this year.” City officials share, “The temporary location will provide additional opportunities to study and appreciate the mural at museum-hosted events. There will also be opportunities to display artifacts from the museum’s collection as well as offering additional programming at the museum.”

A photographic reproduction will be placed in the Main Library while the facility under goes renovations.

“Southwest” was painted in 1956 as a collaborative effort between Lea and his wife, Sarah, as a gift to the people of El Paso and the Main Library. It is the only known collaboration of its kind between one of El Paso’s most prolific artists of the mid-twentieth century and his wife.

In a passage from his book, “A Picture Gallery,” Lea describes his work as a panoramic window onto a vast and open landscape. “It spoke of space, sun, cloud, rain, wind, mountain, mesa, rock, sand, soil, and of living growth nurtured by them. The only human habitant was the viewer of this mural…” Lea states in his book.

“Southwest” will be officially unveiled at the Museum of History, on March 21. The unveiling reception will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. for members and supporters.

For more information on the unveiling, contact the Museum of History at (915) 212-3160

Tom Lea Elementary Students Visit Museum, Engage in ‘Active Learning’

The Active Learning Framework came to life in beautiful Downtown El Paso last week when the Tom Lea Elementary School Bulls visited the El Paso Museum of Art.

The students, under the guidance of art teacher Christina Sordini, got a one-on-one lesson on ceramics from artist Philip Romero. As part of the exercise, the students even got to create their own pottery.

Sordini said students used their math and science skills to make Active Learning connections to art.

Active Learning, according to EPISD officials is where “Teachers engage students in problem based learning by designing grade appropriate challenges that allow students to explore a number of possible solutions.  As students work, teachers help them to refine their solutions as they ready for presenting their work to peers.”

The visit to the museum ended with a guided tour of the exhibits, with an emphasis on augmented reality art, impasto, African-American prints and French salon-style paintings.

Of course, the students were also thrilled to view original art from the campus’ namesake, El Paso legendary artist Tom Lea.

Original story by Gustavo Reveles  |  Photos courtesy of Tom Lea ES

Eight El Paso ISD Schools Named to National Honor Roll

On Friday, EPISD announced that eight schools have been named to the 2017 – 2018 Educational Results Partnership Honor Roll for their high achievement and student success.

Green, Hawkins, Lamar, Polk, Tom Lea, Western Hills and Zavala Elementary Schools, as well as Transmountain Early College High School were named to the Honor Roll based on their academic achievements.

The program, sponsored by the Institute for Productivity in Education (IPE), is part of a national effort to identify higher-performing schools and districts that are improving student outcomes.

The schools are amongth the 729 public schools in Texas to be recognized.

The 2017 – 2018 Honor Roll is developed by Educational Results Partnership (ERP), a nonprofit organization that applies data science to help improve student outcomes and career readiness. ERP maintains the nation’s largest database on student achievement and utilizes this data to identify higher-performing schools and districts.

According to EPISD officials, “Schools that receive the ERP Honor Roll distinction have demonstrated consistent high levels of student academic achievement, improvement in achievement levels over time, and a reduction in achievement gaps among student populations.”

For high schools, the ERP Honor Roll recognition also includes measures of college readiness

Tom Lea Elementary Celebrates Namesake with Art Contest

Tom Lea is world-renown El Paso artist, novelist and historian whose work still graces the walls of federal buildings and art museums. But to students at the school that bears his name, Tom Lea can often times just be a name on marquee.

That’s why, during the local celebration of October as Tom Lea Month, the Tom Lea Elementary School PTA decided to host an art competition that honors the artist’s legacy.

“It’s important for the students to know who Tom Lea was and what his background was, so they can be proud of their school,” PTA co-vice president Lorraine Armengol said.

The competition, which was open to the whole school, focused on the theme “Lea’s Bulls at the Pumpkin Patch.”

Winners will be announced next Thursday and will receive an art kit to continue cultivating their creative endeavors.

“The bull is not only our mascot, but bulls are so indicative of Tom Lea because of the novel ‘The Brave Bulls,’ which he wrote and illustrated,” Armengol said.

Art teacher Yuvia Rodriguez had the students focus on use of color in their creations. Some students used a bull template to create their artwork, while other students made their drawings from scratch.

“I have been teaching them about warm colors since it’s fall, so they used a lot of red, orange and yellow,” Rodriguez said.

The art competition goes hand-in-hand with the annual celebration in October, which has been designated Tom Lea Month for more than 10 years. The month-long festivities included art exhibits, walking tours and other educational events.

Adair Margo, the First Lady of El Paso and a local expert on Tom Lea, wrote a column in the El Paso Times outlining the importance of the artist for our community.

“As the president and founder of the Tom Lea Institute and someone who had the pleasure of getting to know Tom, I am delighted to see our community carry on his tradition of celebrating our heritage,” she wrote. “Tom captured the many traditions that came together to form our unique border region.”

Author: Alicia Chumley | Photos by Leonel Monroy/EPISD

El Paso Museum of Art Presents Tom Lea Watercolors and Washes Exhibition

In celebration of Tom Lea Month, the El Paso Museum of Art (EPMA) will present the Tom Lea Watercolors and Washes exhibit featuring Lea’s portraiture, landscapes, and illustrations during the month of October.

Presented in EPMA’s Peter and Margaret de Wetter Gallery, the exhibition includes works from EPMA’s permanent collection, one of the largest collections of Lea’s work in the world, as well as work on loan from Lea’s son, Jim D. Lea.

With more than 40 works spanning Lea’s career, including his schooling and mural work in Chicago, his tour as a World War II artist-correspondent, and his time as an illustrator and novelist, Watercolors and Washes demonstrates Lea’s ability to depict the complexity of the human face through a series of ink wash portraits.

Also on display are sketches, mural studies, and Lea’s personal sketchbook used during World War II. As exhibition curator, Kevin Burns notes, “Tom Lea’s work captures the character and rich multicultural history of the Southwest. This is what makes him such an important artist, regionally and nationally.”

The exhibit, which coincides with Tom Lea Month, is free of charge and will remain open through February 18.

Gallery+Story: City, Residents Honor the Life and Work of Tom Lea

“His work reflects the landscape and the people of El Paso. You learn more about the Southwest, Texas and New Mexico simply by viewing his works and reading his books.”

El Paso has been the birthplace of so many people: Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek. Vikki Carr is from here and still lives here. Bobby Fuller is an El Paso son. Ara Celi, from American Beauty, is from here, as is Supreme Court Justice (ret) Sandra Day O’Connor.

The list goes on and on, yet only one has a month set aside to appreciate his life and works: Tom Lea.

Even with his work on display at the El Paso Museum of Art, the El Paso Public Library, the El Paso Museum of History, and UTEP. More than a few people have seen his work, and a couple I spoke to just couldn’t name the artist.

About the piece at the El Paso Public Library, “I saw this painting more than once,” said Charles, “but I’ve never known who it was done by.” Charles has spent the last thirteen years in El Paso.

At the El Paso Museum of Art, I met a family, the Guzman’s. I spoke to them as they were walking through the collections. “I’ve heard the name,” Ruben said. “My daughter did a report on him last month, and that was when I connected the dots between the name and his art.”

“I like his style,” said Maribell. “The way he makes his paintings is how I want to paint. It’s the reason I did my report on him.”

Tom Lea is, according to Lisa M. Pugh, the director of the Tom Lea Institute, “a well known artist, a muralist, a portraitist, a war correspondent artist, as well as an author.”

Looking at the whole, known body of work by Tom Lea, he was prolific and thoughtful in his work. I’ve always like his work. Each piece tells a story, and not a single brush stroke is wasted.

“He became active as an artist,” says Lisa Pugh, “in high school.” Tom Lea attended El Paso High School and even did work in the Yearbook while he was there. After graduation, he went on to the Art Institute of Chicago.

After Tom left the Art Institute, he moved to Santa Fe where he worked as an illustrator, and on the WPA murals.

The WPA, or Work Projects Administration, was the largest of President Roosevelt’s New Deal agencies. Their goal was to employ
those who were unemployed to carry out public works projects, such as the construction of buildings, roads, and more. A much smaller part of the WPA was to hire writers, actors, and artists to create public works of art, as well as other literacy projects.

Being an avid reader, I asked what book one should read if they wanted an overview of Tom Lea and his work.

“The best books, if you are looking for an overview of Tom Lea and his works, there are three that come to mind,” began Lisa. “Two are works of fiction.”

The first one is Wonderful Country, which was later turned into a film. In fact, Tom Lea has a bit part in the movie as the barber. The other is Hands of Cantu. The latter book is about horsemanship in New Spain (Mexico).

“His History of the King Ranch,” said Lisa, “is quite fascinating.” Tom Lea was commissioned by the Kleberg Family to complete the history of the King Ranch as part of their centennial celebrations.

“We had a speaker the other day, at Santa Fe, talking about his [Tom Lea’s) work in J. Frank Dobie’sbooks,” says Lisa. “That was her introduction to the Southwest. Just by looking at his illustrations and paintings she knew what the Southwest looked like.”

I can see that. Looking at the works of Tom Lea I can see the Southwest, I can see El Paso. I can imagine what life was like during his time, or even one-hundred years ago. Having read some of his writings, it’s the same. I can imagine I am there. I can feel the story move through me as if I were a part of it.

“It’s a unique landscape that we have here, and he was proud to call it home,” Lisa said. Back to Tom Lea Month.

Tom Lea Month runs through October. It is a month-long celebration of his work, art, and writings within the communities along the Tom Lea Trail. In June of this year, Gov. Greg Abbott signed the legislation that made Tom Lea Month the first artist named heritage trail in Texas.

“If you travel to each one of these communities,” says Lisa Pugh, “you get to see what Tom Lea saw. You get to see what inspired his art work, what inspired his literature. He was always very concerned with accurately reflecting the people in those communities.”

Each person he encountered, each community he visited had its own story, its own history. Tom Lea wanted to make sure that was reflected in his works, be it a painting or a story he wrote.

“If you go to the post office in Seymour, Texas,” said Lisa, “you’ll see his post office mural, and it’s entitled the Comanches, and he focused on the horsemanship skills of Comanche warriors.”

Tom Lea based other works, paintings as well as writings on what he saw, witnessed or learned. The Tom Lea Institute, in addition to preserving the work of Mr. Lea, also works within the public schools.

“We have developed a curriculum, for grades four thru twelve, on various topics,” said Lisa Pugh. “The focus is always on understanding your regional, border history through artwork and literature. This gives the children another access point in learning about their community, and taking pride in their community.”

In addition to the curriculum, they give class tours of Tom Lea’s work in the Downtown area. “We learn almost as much from them [the children] as they do from us,” said Lisa. “Many of them have been downtown with their grandmothers, and hear the stories of where they shopped, where they had their first dates, walking along the Plaza.”

The history of our city is continuous, it joins us to everyone in the community, whether we know them or not.

I asked Lisa what her message would be, if she were shouting from the rooftops, “My message would be for El Pasoan’s to take a look at what we are doing. To look at our programs, come to our activities, to learn more about the fascinating place we live.”

“I hope people take pride in the heritage of this community, to look at it very carefully so that we can promote it to our friends.”

With everything we have lost in El Paso, and are currently losing- bits of our collective heritage, history, and past, I left Lisa with one question. I wanted to know what happens if we forget our history, marginalize it, or if we forget artists like Tom Lea.

“I think something is lost,” she answered. “When you lose that continuity across time to understand that history didn’t just happen yesterday that it happened 50 years ago, 100 years ago. For those born in this community today, there is a chance that Tom Lea knew your great- great-grandparents.”

Want to learn more about Tom Lea, the Tom Lea Institute, or the events surrounding Tom Lea Month? Visit their web page.

Tom Lea Month Lecture on Landscapes and Preservation Set for Saturday

Through his artwork and writing, El Paso’s native son, Tom Lea created a timeless vision of Texas that lives on today.

In celebration of Tom Lea Month Shannon Harris, Program Director for Texan by Nature, will present a lecture on the need to conserve these incredible landscapes for the generations to come and provide a brief overview of Texan by Nature’s program initiatives including Conservation Wrangler, Monarch Wrangler, and the Symposia Series.

Founded by former First Lady Laura Bush, Texan by Nature is on a mission to shift the mindset that conservation is something only specialized agencies and scientists do.

Via a news release, officials with Texan by Nature said, “Everyone from home gardeners, to land owners, to CEOs, must come together to practice conservation – in big ways and small – to ensure that our natural heritage and economic vitality endure.”

Shannon Harris

Shannon is a native Texan with a background in program management and research at the Center for Sustainable Development and the School of Architecture at The University of Texas at Austin. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Geography and a Master’s Degree in Sustainable Design from UT Austin.

Following the lecture Bernie Sargent, President of the Keystone Board of Directors, will lead a tour of the Botanical Gardens.  The Keystone Heritage Park consists of an archaeological site, the El Paso Desert Botanical Gardens, the Chihuahua Desert Experience and the Kevin Von Finger Wetlands, a protected sanctuary for birds and other wildlife.

This program is made possible through sponsorships and in part by grants from the Texas Commission on the Arts and Humanities Texas, the State Affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Tom Lea Institute is located at 201 East Main Street in El Paso  For more information about Tom Lea Month and the Institute’s programs please visit the website or call 915-533-0048.

Event:              Lecture – Landscape:  Summoning the Past through Works of Art by Shannon Harris, Program Director, Texan by Nature

Date:               Saturday, October 7, 2017

Time:               11:00 AM – 12:00 noon

Place:               The Pavilion at Keystone Heritage Park, 4200 Doniphan Drive.

Video+Story: El Paso ISD Students Present TED Ed Talks

Several EPISD campuses delved into the TED-Ed Clubs this school year, exploring and learning to express their passion through talks. The campuses came together last week for a district-wide TED-Ed Club talk and community presentation at CCTE.

“TED-Ed helps kids develop their confidence in speaking to an audience, develop their ideas and express their ideas,” said Karen Blaine, Chief Academic and Innovation Officer. “This not only prepares for skills they will need in the future, it gives them a place at school to express their passions.”

051817TEDEd244 copy 2Campus participating in the program are: Barron, Cielo Vista, Coldwell, Guerrero, Mesita, Newman and Tom Lea elementary schools; Armendariz, Lincoln, Morehead and Richardson middle schools; Coronado High School and Silva Health Magnet.

“It’s really fun,” said Mathew Hernandez, a Schuster 5th grader. “I think it’s a great idea. You get to express what you feel with the world.”

 The talks included a wide variety of topics including bullying, body image, post traumatic stress disorder and being a good friend.

“I think this is very important because it teaches them that if they have a great idea, their voice matters, too,” said Schuster teacher Stormy Daniels.

Collaboration is key to TED-Ed Club talks. In TED-Ed Clubs, students work together to discuss and celebrate creative ideas. Club leaders051817TEDEd103 copy 2 receive TED-Ed’s flexible Clubs curriculum to guide their school’s club and to help inspire tomorrow’s TED speakers and leaders.

 “I may have a great idea but not speak very well and might need a friend help me articulate it better or make my presentation using technology,” Daniels said. My role has been to guide them and help them with the opportunity. It’s their ideas, they research and the parts they liked they went for.”

District officials and the area TED Ed representative are encouraged by the students’ collaborations and talks. The clubs, which began in EPISD at the beginning of the school year, is open to any campus interested in participating.

“We’re pleased with the response and how the clubs have taken off in such a short time,” Blaine said.

Tom Lea Play Returns to the Sun City

The popular play based on El Paso native Tom Lea’s early life, returns to the Borderland by popular demand.

Tom Lea: Grace Note in a Hard World is a one-act play by Camilla Carr, starring Ray Baker and Morgana Shaw. There will be two performances at the Philanthropy Theater on Saturday, October 29 at 7 p.m. AND Sunday, October 30 at 3 p.m.

Tickets are available at or at the Tom Lea Institute for $25.00. Commissioned by Betty Ruth Wake­field Haley for the Tom Lea Institute, the one act play dramatizes the early life of El Paso native, Tom Lea.

Based on the book Tom Lea, An Oral History by Adair Margo, the performance focuses on Lea’s early life as the mayor’s son, his studies at the Art Institute of Chicago and apprenticeship to muralist John Norton, his marriage to fellow art student Nancy Taylor and later his marriage to his beloved Sarah Lea.

Staring Ray Baker (who has supported seven Academy Award winning actors in the roles for which they won their Oscars) and Morgana Shaw (currently starring on Salem, Season Premier November 2nd). Visit for more information.


Saturday, October 29, 2016 at 7 p.m.

Sunday, October 30, 2016 at 3 p.m. 


Philanthropy Theater, Plaza Theater Annex

125 Pioneer Plaza, El Paso, Texas ­


Available at or at the Tom Lea Institute for $25.00.

EPCC GALA JUNE 28 2019 728
Amy’s Astronomy
Bordertown Undergroun Show 728
shark 728×90
STEP 728
Soccer/Volleyball 728
Utep Football Generic 728