LCSN: NMSU project finalist list draws fire from local artists

August 4, 2010. Retrieved online August 4, 2010 from S. Derrickson Moore, Las Cruces Sun-News

George Mendoza shows off his textile designs at a recent exhibit at the RioGrande Theatre Galleries. (S. Derrickson Moore/Sun-News)

LAS CRUCES – Should state funded art projects be awarded only to New Mexico residents?

Internationally known Las Cruces artist George Mendoza thinks so and is protesting a decision in which five out-of-state finalists were selected to vie for a $171,000 large-scale art project commissioned by New Mexico State University.

“It’s horrible, especially with the economy and the art market the way it is,” said Mendoza, a legally blind abstract artist who has been the subject of a movie and documentary, had national touring exhibitions of his paintings and created works used in an international line of fabrics.

Medoza said he was inspired to protest the decision by David Boje, whose NMSU marketing class helped him with an application for the large scale work in a three-story glass atrium at O’Donnell Hall, the home of NMSU’s College of Education.

“When he heard about this, David just screamed out, ‘How can they do this? With 36 New Mexico artists out of 359 artists who applied, doesn’t New Mexico have any artist good enough to do this?’ I know if I was chosen, I would use local people and spend money here to do this,” Mendoza said.

Boje confirmed he was upset with the decision.

“I think of the five, at least one should have been from New Mexico,” said Boje, who added that he is “investigating” issues that include “possible conflict of interest, violations of mission statements” and changes in selection criteria after the application deadline.

“I’m not saying there is a conflict of interest, I’m just saying it should be investigated,” Boje said.

None of Boje’s charges are valid, said Wynn Egginton, director of NMSU’s Education Research and Budgeting office and a member of the seven-member selection committee which chose finalists.

“It’s sad that this is putting a cloud over what has been a very exciting and exhilarating opportunity,” Egginton said. “I think our selection committee is very professional and conscientious. We went looking for the best art we could find for the space in an award-winning building,”

“I think the art kind of falls above all this. Art is more universal and we selected the top five people that would best do the project,” said Sally Cutter, also a member of the selection committee.

The selection committee also included NMSU’s University Architect and Director of Facilities Planning and Construction Michael Rickenbaker; architect Jim Vorenberg; artist Tom Gerend; and community members Sheryl Parsley, an NMSU alumna, and Liz Marrufo, director of Elementary Instruction, College of Education at NMSU.

Read the Las Cruces Sun-News article.

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