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NMSU's 'Doing What Counts' campaign supports Center for the Arts

Construction on a Center for the Arts at New Mexico State University is under way thanks in part to the NMSU Foundation's "Doing What Counts" comprehensive campaign.

Construction on a Center for the Arts at New Mexico State University is under way at the corner of Espina Street and University Avenue thanks in part to the NMSU Foundation's "Doing What Counts" comprehensive campaign. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

Riis Gonzales, vice president of development for the NMSU Foundation, said capital projects, such as the construction of the Center for the Arts, enhance the growth and enrichment of NMSU's physical campus and learning community.

"The Center for the Arts will not only provide students with up-to-date classrooms, labs and performance halls, but also provide our faculty with needed space to work on cross-discipline collaborations and projects," Gonzales said. "The investment and benefit also extend to our community partners and our schools, bringing a welcoming environment for all to learn, explore and enjoy."

A groundbreaking ceremony for the first phase of the three-phase Center for the Arts project was held in July, and construction is now under way for the most ambitious project ever undertaken by NMSU. When it is completed, theater arts, dance, music and the visual arts will be housed in one location.

"I think it's important for dance students to be in a center that houses all of the arts," said Debra Knapp, dance program director. "It will allow them to communicate and collaborate with artists from other disciplines."

The first phase is a 49,000 square-foot building containing a 500-seat performing arts theater with a full fly loft for teaching stage craft, multi-disciplinary classrooms, rehearsal spaces, offices, galleries, laboratories and support spaces.

The center's development has been planned in collaboration with each involved department and the community. Department of Theatre Arts faculty and staff, for example, are excited for the construction of the new facility because their current space is in need of an upgrade.

"Our current space was built for professional theater, not academic theater," said Tom Smith, theater arts department head. "Currently, we have offices in five different buildings across campus, and there is not enough storage space or classroom space. It just wasn't conducive to really having a growing department that communicates efficiently with one another."

The Center for the Arts also will begin the university's intention to turn a face to the community of Las Cruces along University Avenue and to create a gateway feature at one of the main entrances to the university. The center will draw attention to NMSU and Las Cruces as an art community, Smith said.

"Southern New Mexico, specifically Las Cruces, is really becoming a home for artists. In the past, we have lived in the shadow of cities like Albuquerque and Santa Fe, which have reputations based on their art," Smith said. "The new center will be a great opportunity for us to create such spaces where exceptional art can live, with more opportunities to collaborate and more opportunities for our students to showcase their work."

The NMSU Foundation will celebrate the successful "Doing What Counts" comprehensive campaign as part of its bi-annual Board of Directors meeting held in conjunction with the university's Homecoming, Oct. 25-30. For more information, visit http://foundation.nmsu.edu.