Jasmine Flores, a senior art major who expects to graduate in December 2019, has spent the early part of the fall semester finishing pieces for her one-woman show that will be on display Nov. 25-27, 2019, in the Fox Fine Arts Center's Glass Gallery. Photo: JR Hernandez / UTEP Communications

UTEP Art Student writes grant for Rubin Center assessment

Jasmine Flores has loved art since she was a child when she started to draw images based on popular comic book characters. She considered art a hobby until she enrolled at The University of Texas at El Paso, where it became her passion. Now she uses her abilities as an artist and a writer to express herself and impress others.

Flores, a senior art major who expects to graduate in December 2019, has spent the early part of the fall semester finishing pieces for her one-woman show that will be on display Nov. 25-27, 2019, in the Fox Fine Arts Center’s Glass Gallery. This will complete a busy few months for the El Paso native who helped prepare the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts for a grant-funded assessment of its permanent collection this past summer.

The Institute of Museum and Library Sciences (IMLS), an independent U.S. government agency established in 1996, awarded in May 2019 a $7,400 grant for a two-day valuation of the UTEP center’s 400-piece collection and preservation methods. Flores, who helped catalogue the donated works, wrote the majority of the grant under the supervision of Rubin Center Director Kerry Doyle. The institute will send a preliminary report to the center in October 2019 and the final report two months later.

Flores talked about her academic and artistic evolution during an interview in the Rubin Center’s basement “vault,” home to its permanent collection. The works include high-value prints, paintings, sculptures, jewelry and more created by such contemporary artists as Andy Warhol, Sam Francis, Claes Oldenberg and Robert Rauchenberg.

“I spent quite a bit of time on (the project),” said Flores, Canutillo High School’s 2015 valedictorian who initially considered a civil engineering major as a safer career option but decided to follow her heart. “It was really involved but I knew it was to get us the help we needed. To get the grant was a pretty incredible feeling.”

Doyle called the award “a prestigious first step” because it enhanced the gallery’s options for future contributions from the IMLS and other agencies and foundations. She praised Flores for her exceptional efforts that led to the assessment and for her independent research that will help the center be better stewards for its permanent collection.

Flores appreciated the opportunity to help the Rubin Center, a haven that she visited often to admire the artwork. She thought it would be a great place to work and was ecstatic when Doyle hired her in October 2018 as the gallery’s part-time collections manager. Her job is to preserve the permanent collection, which includes some of her award-winning work. She earned Best Life Drawing in 2018 and Best of Show in 2019 at the University’s juried student art shows.

“The Rubin Center is a great place to develop as a professional,” Flores said. “There is so much you can learn here.”

Flores’ fans include art faculty members Terri Bauer and Tom Birkner. Both have known her for about three years and describe her as caring, positive, enthusiastic and a natural artist.

Bauer, a senior lecturer who specializes in drawing, noted that Flores is totally invested in her work and confident enough not to talk herself out of any challenges.

Birkner, assistant professor of painting, said that Flores likes to experiment with different styles and demands a lot of herself.

“As a student, Jasmine is smart, as an artist she’s independent, and as a person she’s highly determined,” Birkner said. “I find these to be excellent qualities in anyone, but maybe they’re necessary qualities for artists because otherwise the work has no direction.”

Even the out-of-town assessors had a positive impression of Flores, whom they met during their August 2019 visit. Jeffrey Oertel, president of Oertal Architects, Ltd., of St. Paul, Minnesota, and Shelley Smith, an art conservator from Marfa, Texas, appreciated how the UTEP student prepared the center for their visit and for her assistance during their valuation.

Smith said the experience, to include the grant preparation, would help Flores as she continues on her professional journey.

Flores said her initial dream job is to produce graphics for video games, but she ultimately would like to teach art at the secondary or collegiate level. She said she plans to look for work after graduation, but added that she could start graduate school or apply for teacher certification as early as fall 2020.

As for the assessment, Oertel and Smith were to review the collection, the environment, the staff and other factors to develop suggestions for how the center could better care for its collection. The IMLS, a Washington, D.C.-based grant-making organization, conducts research and develops policies that help museums and libraries to be innovative and to foster lifelong learning as well as cultural and civic engagement.

Doyle said she expected the report to include suggestions for humidity and pest controls as well as practical proposals of where to store archival materials in the building that was among the first constructed on campus in 1917. Long-term suggestions might mean capital improvement projects.

“Artwork is an investment that needs to be protected,” Doyle said. “This assessment will create a better atmosphere for our art.”

Author: Daniel Perez – UTEP Communications