LAS CRUCES – A $ 1.2 million endowment from Candis J. Stern will support the efforts of the Museums Curatorial Program at New Mexico State University to provide an undergraduate degree and hands-on conservation experience museums to prepare students for careers in museums across the country.
The endowment will provide long-term support for the NMSU program at the College of Arts and Sciences, one of only three undergraduate programs of its kind in the United States. In addition, Stern also provides funds for equipment and supplies and student support.
“This endowment will position our program nationally,” said Julia Barello, head of the arts department at NMSU. “While providing the necessary funding for students, equipment and the lab itself as we seek ways to expand the program to provide conservation services in southern New Mexico.” “
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There is a high demand for these conservation jobs across the country. NMSU Museum Conservation Program Director Silvia Marinas-Feliner reports a 95% placement rate of NMSU program students in museum jobs after graduation.
“It’s helpful to keep in mind that museum curation isn’t limited to the United States,” Marinas-Feliner said. “I have had students who have been to England, Rome, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Brazil as well as all over the United States and Canada. I help my students understand that their opportunities are limitless, that curation takes place all over the world.
Stern previously established a scholarship to NMSU by Stern that covered living expenses for students attending internships like the one at the Smithsonian Institution and also allowed them to attend the annual meeting of the American Institute of Conservation.
“I appreciate the arts – music, dance, art – all artistic endeavors are fundamental to human expression,” Stern said. “While I’ve known about the restore process for many years, it got personal when I brought an outdoor bronze here when I moved from Michigan. Unfortunately, I didn’t clean or wax it for three years and it started to lose its patina. Someone told me about the program at NMSU. I then contacted Silvia. She and her students have been a blessing to me personally. NMSU should be very proud, this program is an important contribution to the art world, not just here but across the country.
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“Candis collects bronze sculpture so that she understands, in a truly intimate and specific way, the value of conservation,” Marinas-Feliner said. “He is a remarkable person and a great philanthropist.”
Since 2005, more than 100 students have received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree or a minor in museum conservation or received a graduate certificate in museology. Demand is high for these courses. Marinas-Feliner now has a new, larger lab inside Devasthali Hall, the state-of-the-art facility that houses the NMSU’s art department and the university’s art museum. This new facility allows it to train 16 students, which is more than twice as many students as its old laboratory could accommodate.
“A lot of my students tell me that one of the main reasons they got hired was the combination of conservation theory and the hands-on experience they had in my classes,” Marinas-Feliner said. “It’s important to train students this way and when museums find someone who understands not only conservation knowledge but also the practical application of that knowledge, they hire them. This is one of the reasons why students in our program are very successful in finding employment.
Students gain some of this hands-on experience by helping area museums with curatorial projects as well as internships at prestigious facilities like the Smithsonian Institution. A new partnership with the Smithsonian’s Latino Center will support NMSU museum curatorial students interning in any area of Smithsonian museums over the next several years.
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“I’ve always thought that what’s exciting about the museum’s curatorial program is that it really is an interdisciplinary area of study and such a model for the NMSU,” said Barello. “The conservation degree requires courses in chemistry, anthropology, history, studio art, and art history. Conservation provides a place for students with diverse interests and skills to apply both scientific methods and artistic skills to the manipulation and preservation of important collections of art and artefacts. I hope there will be more programs like this in the future that can bridge the traditional disciplines in the training of our students.
Marinas-Feliner is confident that the Candis J. Stern Institute for Museum Conservation will cement the future of the NMSU program. “I am very grateful to Candis for all of their support in the past and for the opportunities this endowment will provide to our students and the program as well as to the many museums that will greatly benefit from the expertise of our graduates.”
Minerva Baumann writes for Marketing and Communications at New Mexico State University and can be contacted at 575-646-7566, or by email at [email protected]