by Myrna Zanetell
Menu of this month's listings, stories and columns
Revitalized International Museum offers full calendar of exhibits
After a period of time when the existence of the International Museum of Art seemed to hang in the balance, it is wonderful to report that the organization’s future now seems secure as it continues to fulfill its mission as one of the first, and perhaps loveliest, art museums in the City of El Paso.
Thanks to the diligent efforts of Mitzi Quirarte, who took over as director four years ago, the museum is coming into its own once again.
“At that time the former director had resigned, and it was rumored that the museum would be closing its doors,” Quirarte said. “I was on a committee charged with helping to save the museum as the City of El Paso was very interested in taking over the property. It was at this point that I accepted the position as director, and from there we went forward full force.”
With Quirarte, the board of the International Museum had found the perfect person to revitalize the museum. She is an accomplished artist in her own right. In addition to being a charter member of the Pastel Society, she has also established an enviable record with a variety of volunteer organizations.
“I worked with Hospice of El Paso for more than eight years, and I was the one who started the concept of doing painted chili peppers, which has become a very popular fundraiser for them. I also work with Operation Santa Claus, which helps collect toys for kids who do not have parents to provide for them.
“However, once I started with the museum that became my life,” she said, laughing. “From the beginning my challenge was to renew patron support for the museum. As they saw the progress we were making, little by little people began to believe in it again. Having people interested in it is the secret to keeping it alive.
“When I took over there were a lot of physical challenges on the horizon as well, such as meeting all the maintenance items required by our contract with the city.”
As one example, in May 2017 the State of Texas declared the building elevator system inoperable. Repairs to refurbish were estimated to run around $30,000. Local artists came to the rescue by donating work to be sold at the “Elevate your Art” fundraising event. With sales from the art and other donations, Quirarte said, the repairs were completed and paid for, adding, “New landscaping is in, and all the other items are up to date.”
The building at 1211 Montana has been home to the International Museum of Art for more than a decade. It was built in 1909 by leading El Paso architectural firm of Trost and Trost. Initially it was the home of State Sen. William Turney and his wife, Ina. Following his death, the building eventually became the property of the City of El Paso, which honored the Turneys’ request that it would be used as a museum. It housed the El Paso Museum of Art until the museum relocated to its current site in downtown El Paso.
“The building is now more than a century old so there continue to be a lot of ongoing maintenance requirements such as updating the heating and air conditioning systems,” Quirarte said. “Although the city continues to own the building, all maintenance and other expenses must be paid for by the International Museum organization.”
Funds to cover these expenses come from several sources: donations, museum memberships and rental of the building for social events such as weddings, quinceañaras and art exhibitions. The museum also receives a grant from the Huthsteiner Endowment for the Fine Arts.
“We are fortunate in that we are beginning to get a full calendar,” she added. “For instance, The Sunset Film Society presents movies on Saturdays. Admission is free but we make money from the concessions. We had 110 kids on a recent weekend. Additionally, this is our second year collaborating with the El Paso Art Association to present their photography show ‘Eye of the Camera.’ We had an incredible turnout for the opening — about 150 people — for the opening reception. Four more outstanding exhibits are on the agenda between now and the end of 2018.”
The upcoming shows include:
• Western Art Exhibition – The show opens Aug. 5 and hangs through Aug. 31. Artist Don Beene related that the El Paso Art Association previously hosted a Western Art Show from about 2007 to 2010. “Being here with the ranching heritage of West Texas and southern New Mexico, I am very pleased to see that the EPAA is renewing the tradition of a Western show. I feel that it could turn into a really solid annual exhibition,” Beene said.
• 2018 Arts International – The El Paso Art Association’s annual juried show, the largest and oldest of its kind in the region, opens Sept. 5, with a reception Sept. 8, and will hang through Sept 30. Mesilla-based artist Ouida Touchon will judge the exhibition. Three other artists, Ann James Massey, Joshua Rose and Isadora Stowe will jury entries.
A working artist who also teaches her craft through classes with the Doña Ana Arts Council, Touchon holds a BFA in painting from the Kansas City Art Institute and a MFA in Studio Arts from the University of Missouri at Kansas City. In addition to painting, she has taught printmaking and painting as well as mentoring a number of young artists in her local community. LuLu Press recently published her book, “Morning Paintings”, which will be used in art therapy workshops taught by mental health professionals.
• Alberto Escamilla Retrospective — Impressionist painter Alberto Escamilla will celebrate 40 years as a professional artist with a large exhibition opening in October, which will feature past work and a number of new paintings.*
• Sun Bowl Exhibition – Another of El Paso’s oldest art tradition, the exhibition will be on display in December.
Silver City destinations
If you are looking for a getaway that promises a delightful blend of history and art, consider making a trip to Silver City, New Mexico. It’s an easy three-hour drive from El Paso, and its 6,000-foot elevation offers cooler days and nights.
Silver City sprang to life in the summer of 1870 when the discovery of silver lured thousands of prospectors to the region, changing the tiny mountain town into a bustling metropolis almost overnight. As merchants quickly followed, the town founders were determined that the city would be built to last. In 1880 they passed an ordinance requiring that all new structures built within the city limits would be of masonry construction. The beautiful commercial buildings, brick homes and other adobe structures from that era still stand. One of the most interesting is the Silver City Museum in the historic 1881 home of local businessman H. B. Ailman.
A series of devastating floods between 1890 and 1910 washed away the original Main Street, and all but one of the handsome brick buildings. The stately Warren House is the sole survivor. Walls of water more than 12 feet high rushed down the street. Now known as the “Big Ditch,” the original Main Street now lies some 55 feet below the level of Downtown.
The climate and slow pace of life have served to attract a large number of artists. Galleries in town now number more than 25, offering art ranging from realistic and photography to modern and avant-garde. Most are open Wednesday through Saturday, run by the artists themselves so visitors can see one of a kind artwork and often meet the creator as well.
Because it will also be held in conjunction with their “Print Fiesta, the 20th annual “Weekend at the Galleries” celebration in October will be an even larger and more special event. Always scheduled for Columbus Day weekend, this year’s event will begin on Friday and run through Monday.
Weekends are the best time to visit the area as several nearby attractions are only open on Saturday and Sunday. The Buckhorn Saloon in the historic village of Pinos Altos serves dinner from 4 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. It is best to phone for reservations. The Judge Roy Bean Store and Opera House are no longer open. However, there is a gallery in the old Hearst Church.
Due to major flooding in 2014, the upper trails of the Catwalk in Glenwood are not open. However, hikers can still travel along the half-mile lower section that hangs along the canyon wall. If you drive that far, Mogollon offers a chance to visit a true ghost town and old mining area. A restaurant and gift shop are open Saturdays and Sundays during the summer.
If you are interested in military history, head down U.S. 180 towards Deming and stop off at the Fort Bayard Historic District. Many old homes that once served as Officers’ Quarters are still standing. The museum is open 9:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays during the summer, with walking tours beginning at 9:30 a.m. A great day to visit is Aug. 18, when the Fort Bayard Historic Preservation Society celebrates the fort’s 152nd birthday.
For other Silver City area information, call call the Silver City Visitor’s Bureau at (575) 538-5555.
Myrna Zanetell is a freelance writer
specializing in the visual arts.
El Paso Scene MONTHLY
This month's listings,
stories and columns
Here's the Ticket
Southwest Art Scene
At the Museum
Keep on Bookin'
Copyright 2018 by Cristo Rey Communications.