Celebrating the Class of 2020

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To celebrate the University of New Mexico’s graduating class of 2020, the UNM Art Museum has collected well-wishes and words of encouragement from UNM Alumni. Class of 2020, we are so sorry that you did not get to experience a traditional ceremony, but your Lobo pack is celebrating your achievements. Congratulations graduates!

-UNM Art Museum Staff

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation), artist, graduated from UNM in 1980.

Dear UNM Class of 2020,

After graduation, I chose not to accept a full time teaching position, instead I’ve worn many hats, meaning that I’ve done different jobs instead of one full-time job.  I am an independent professor and do visiting artist gigs at colleges and universities. I deliver talks at colleges, universities, art education conferences and museums. I sell images of my work to school textbooks; jury art exhibits; curate Native exhibits; teach non-toxic printmaking workshops at colleges, universities and museums.  I have a gallery in New York where I sell paintings. Sometimes I write articles for catalogs or books. I also make prints in different print shops around the U.S.  I am a full time artist and a part time cultural arts worker.

Art is not a job.

It is a life.

It is what you do when you get up in the morning.

And what you continue to do all day,

Through headaches and phone calls,

Breakups and breakdowns,

Silences and celebrations,

It is what you keep doing after dark

And when you can’t sleep at night

-Louise Bourgeois

This is said somewhat tongue-in-cheek because as you know she was a very successful artist and collected by major museums across the world. On the other hand, she is saying that artists who are born with “the gift” and who must pursue their

art come hell or high water, well, it is a life style, it is a condition, it is your habit and there are myriad ways of supporting it but it may not be through the sale of your art.

You may have to work in a gallery, sell Hondas, tend bar, work in a library, give tango lessons, do public art or photograph weddings. You might make your art to exhibit, to give as gifts, to use for barter, to trade with other artists and make your own collection of art.

Some of us are like Bloomsbury artists, we need the company of other artists, in fact, that is vital to reinforcing who we are. We want to talk about art, see exhibitions or theater or opera with other artists, we want to eat with them and make merry with them.

Yes, there are successful artists who run a business, keep to a schedule and manufacture art. Others write uplifting books for children. But there are others who use their art for meditation, to stay balanced and lead an inspirational lifestyle. Still others make banners and posters to help make society better and healthier such as addressing climate change or animal rights and justice. Whichever we choose, art can make us whole and healthy.

Graduates, you have all worked really really hard to attain your degree and I understand because I was there in your shoes at one time. It was accepted that I would leave university and find a position and likely stay there a long time if not through my working years. I chose a different route, a more adventurous one, which allowed me to decide how best to use my time so that I could commit to my studio practice. Now because of this sudden pandemic which is changing all our lives, you may find yourself doing something similar to my lifestyle with multiple jobs. Forge on and love your adventure; love your art; keep it as sacred; make it your medicine; do good in the world.

We artists are important to society. Keep in mind that cultures who quit making art are dying cultures. We artists create art experiences that inspire people, help provide meditation, help heal, that give people hope whether we sing, make a painting, dance on YouTube, play a guitar or create an orchestra on Zoom that comes from all over the world.

We artists are flexible, change and move with the times. We are contributors to society in too many ways to count. See that the Creator gave you a gift, preserve it and treasure it. Art can be your drug of choice. Don’t lose it; use it, to make the world a better place.”

Eric J. Garcia blends history, contemporary themes and a graphic style to create politically charged art. Garcia received his BFA with a minor in Chicano studies from the University of New Mexico, and went on to complete his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Garcia has exhibited nationally and his work can be found in the collections of the National Hispanic Cultural Center, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.


Sanitary Tortilla Factory, founded by sheri crider (UNM Class of 2001), created this video card to celebrate the UNM Class of 2020, featuring work by the MFA graduating class. The video also includes contributions from: Beau Carey, Class of 2010; Earl McBride, Class of 2017; Sean Hudson, Class of 2017; and Karl Hofmann, Class of 2008.

MFA graduates featured: Tommy Bruce, Ragini Bhow, Nicholas Jacobsen, Monica Kennedy, hazel batrezchavez, and Martin Wannam.

Lauren V Coons, Intermedia composer, performer, and educator,  graduated from UNM in 2014 with a BM in Music Theory and Composition, and 2017 with a MM in Music Theory and Composition, Musicology.

“Class of 2020, I can only imagine how disappointing it must be not to be able to mark this momentous occasion the way you have no doubt been dreaming of for a long time. It is deeply unfair that you won’t get to participate in the ceremony, the rite of passage, that you so deserve because of circumstances completely beyond your control. I am so sorry that has been taken from you. But I want to share that what is most important is not how you mark this great occasion, but that you do it, in some way that is meaningful to you.

Throughout your academic career you’ve endured rigorous exams and projects, sleepless nights and early mornings, balancing your school life with your personal life, family life, and work life, financial aid, stress, and numerous finals weeks, all while building a great body of knowledge and professional expertise. As you embark on the next steps of your journey, I hope that you do so knowing that your degree is so much more than proof of your knowledge in a particular area of study. It is proof that you have the ability to see something through, that you have the strength and resolve to keep going, even when things get tough. It’s proof that you can accomplish the things that are important to you and that you can overcome any number of challenges that life presents. That you have the power to thrive and to succeed. Wherever your path takes you, whatever it is that you do, you have learned something profound about who you are. And that is something that can never be taken away from you. That is something that needs to be celebrated.

With your roommates, with family members and friends online, in the living room, backyard, or Bosque, throw your hat in the air, step across a finish line, deliver a speech, sing, howl. Give yourself a ceremony that means something to you and celebrate your awesome achievement. And although we can’t all be together cheering for you in one place, know that your whole Lobo family is celebrating you too.

Congratulations Class of 2020!”

Tey Marianna Nunn, Director and Chief Curator at the National Hispanic Cultural Center Art Museum, graduated from UNM in 1998, from the Latin American Studies program.

“Feliz Graduation 2020 Lobos!

I know these times are crazy and certainly surreal. Despite the challenges you simply must celebrate your achievements!  Graduating is a BIG deal! Revel in that fact, make your own confetti if you have to, but by all means make sure you celebrate.  I have high hopes for all of you artists, art historians and museum studies grads.  Seriously, creative thoughtful people will make the difference in the years to come.  In my opinion, artists always lead the way. Your works, in all media, evoke and emote our feelings.  They can reflect and they can comfort. Those of you who are art historians will contextualize and record the visual production of current and past centuries. I can only imagine the research and writing you will produce as we enter into a new and rapidly changing era. Those of you in museum studies will collect, preserve, and interpret works from pre-Covid-19 times and the new Covid era. The virtual possibilities will be endless and the collection and interpretation of film and video performances, objects, and artworks will take on new meaning.

I am so excited about what each of you, individually and collectively, will contribute to a cultural world that needs your creations so we don’t lose ourselves.

Now! Make some confetti, sing and dance in your living room, play music in your garden, run some lines with your pet, and paint, sculpt, print, and photograph your feelings- and your joy. Create your celebration and honor where you come from and where you are going. Felicitaciones!”

Corey Dzenko, Assistant Professor of Art History, Monmouth University, graduated fro UNM in 2013 with a Ph.D. in Art History. Photo credit: Mark Ludak





“Congratulations graduates!! UNM has given you tools and values that go beyond the study of art. For me, I’d say they are the ability to observe. To analyze. And to engage. As you embark on doing so beyond the bounds of school, give yourself space for many types of opportunities. They will build and build on each other; even ones that may seem insignificant at the time can have a lasting impact on you. I wish you all the best as you enter into a new community: the dynamic group that is UNM art graduates. Call on us. And– if I can be so bold as to speak for many– we are here for you.”

Paula Castillo, artist, graduated from UNM in 2013, with an MFA in Studio Arts, 3D program.


“Are you up for the uncertainties of your beginning, middle, and end? Are you up for finding a new language that points to dreams and smoke? You are probably more ready than the rest of us. What a liberating and joyful time to step at the precipice! Don’t look down! The vast body of dogma below is completely unnecessary.”

Erika Osborne, Artist and Associate Professor of Art at Colorado State University. UNM Class of 2005 with an MFA, painting concentration

Tracy Stuckey, Artist and Director of the Hatton Gallery at Colorado State University. UNM Class of 2005 with an MFA, painting concentration.

“We can only imagine what a disappointment it is to not be able to celebrate such a milestone as graduation with your cohorts, but don’t let that define this year for you! Your time at University of New Mexico is not just about the degree but all the moments leading up to it. The relationships you have built with your peers and professors, and all that you have learned from shared experiences with them, will last well beyond COVID-19. We can say that with certainty as what began with shared studio space in the Maddox building during our MFA years at UNM led to 15 years of marriage (and counting) and we still share studio space! In addition to our own marriage, we have remained close with so many people we came to know and love during our time at UNM. We continue to learn and grow from each other, and you will too. Enjoy the accomplishment of graduation but remember, your time to make an impact on this world is just beginning. Stay close to those that feed your spirit and help each other walk though this strange time and into the future!”

April Watson, Curator at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. April graduated from UNM with an MA in Art History in 1994.

Elijah Gowin, Professor and Chair of the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Missouri Kansas City. Elijah graduate from UNM in 1997 with an MFA in Photography.

“Congratulations–you have made it! These are strange and incredibly challenging times indeed, and the past few months have thrown everyone into unknown terrain. As you, the Class of 2020, face an uncertain future, trust in yourselves and all that you have accomplished.  No one can take that away from you.  Your intelligence, creativity, and above all, your imagination will carry you far. You are the future.

Jadira Gurulé, Curator at the NHCC Art Museum, graduated from UNM in 2010 with a BA in Art History, and 2015 with an MA in American Studies.

“Congratulations University of New Mexico class of 2020!

I imagine that for some, graduating in a moment like this can make thinking about the future and next steps pretty challenging and a little scary. Know you are not alone in that feeling. I return to this quote for inspiration:

Though we tremble before uncertain futures, may we meet illness, death, and adversity with strength, may we dance in the face of our fears. – Gloria Alzaldúa

Of course, we Lobos may choose to howl in the face of our fears instead. Whatever method you choose, I wish you the strength to keep up the good work. Keep reading, thinking, engaging, moving and shaking. The world needs what you have to offer.

Best of luck!”

Educator & Program Coordinator, Visual Arts at the NHCC. Elena graduated from UNM in 1991 with a BFA and again in 1998 with an MFA.

Congratulations Graduates! As you embark on new adventures, be strong and proud of your accomplishments. Do not let anyone talk down your Art Degree. Receiving a degree in the Arts from UNM is not an easy task and has provided you with a wide variety of skills beyond the type of degree you have received (as demonstrated in the photo of me doing surgery on a Piñata, for and exhibit in our Art Museum) My time and experiences at UNM were an amazing foundation that I have continued to draw from (pun intended) Seriously, with your diploma you have received an internal tool kit that will serve you well on whatever journey life takes you. Good luck and believe in yourself!”

David Leigh, Fine Arts Faculty at Albuquerque High School. David graduated from UNM in 2004, with an MFA.


“When I graduated from UNM in 2004 (holy crap, that was 16 years ago!), I had a few thoughts guiding me from my beloved studio in the Art Annex into the world beyond. I was staying in Albuquerque, so I needed to find a way to show my work on a level that seemed relevant, but I also needed—I cant emphasize this enough—I needed to become a bigger part of the surrounding community, which is a pretty flimsy word unless you do something with it. I had a tight group of art friends from school and we opened a gallery on 4th street, just south of downtown, which did its thing for about 5 years until we moved on.

The cool thing about that space, is that it outlived us; it became another gallery, and then another one, and on and on. The community we made grew and changed and went out into their worlds and made new communities. While we ran the space, we all showed our work and had local jobs in construction or at museums, but our heart, just out of grad school, was in that space. Something meaningful had formed around it, where other artists, gallerists, and so many regular art folks came to eat grilled cheese sandwiches and drink beer during our openings, staying well into the night to talk about art and politics and fashion and whatever the future was.

So, why am I sharing this? The three of us went our separate ways and became a part of other communities (that word again), expanding our art practices and puzzling out what it meant to be artists in 2008. For us, it meant becoming exhibit designers, and teachers, and residency directors, among so many other things, but it all started with a belief in working together for something that felt relevant and important.

I share all of this because I know some of you cant wait to get out of Albuquerque, and I get that! Believe me, I get that. But whether you stay here or leave for other cities and other opportunities, build your own community when you get there, one that will outlive you, too. Because this is what I want to tell you: become a part of something bigger than yourself, something bigger than your studio, something that changes the face of the place around you.”

Josie Lopez, PhD., Curator of Art at the Albuquerque Museum. Josie graduated from UNM in 2009 with an MA in Art History.

“As a curator, I am fortunate to work with art objects, artists, communities, and colleagues from a whole host of local, national, and international organizations. My work is very collaborative and one of my roles is to use art to tell stories that engage our communities. Stories that ask the viewer to question, feel, think, and experience art in all of its diverse forms. In this photograph, I am standing in front of one of my favorite paintings in Albuquerque Museum’s collection – Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s The Court House Steps. The story told in the painting is about the long hard-fought battle to protect the Petroglyph National Monument. For many years, community members and organizations stood to protect these sacred lands and centuries old petroglyphs. In response, one of the developers who supported building a road through the monument, removed a large rock from the site and placed on the courthouse steps in downtown Albuquerque showing disregard for the culture, history, and people tied to this land. In the end, the road was built – and for many that was heartbreaking. But the struggle was important and those who physically protested and spoke out for the land did everything they could to put people and place above development and profit. The class of 2020 faces many challenges but I hope that Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s painting is a reminder that now, more than ever, we all have to reflect on what we will stand up for.”