The Roswell Museum
A Lasting Legacy: 85 Years of the Roswell Museum
A Group Show Featuring Artwork and Historical Documents Celebrating the Museum's 85th Anniversary, Co-curated by Caroline Brooks, Maria "Masha" Beitz, Erica Entrop, Janet Freeman, Jeremy Howe, Kats Jimenez, Cloe Medrano, Jessica Parham, Barbara Posuniak, Aaron Wilder, and Sara Woodbury
Woodblock of Original 1937 Roswell Museum Building, Circa 1937
Woodblock Print on Paper
October 1, 2022-June 25, 2023
The Roswell Museum
North & Founders Galleries
1011 North Richardson Avenue
Roswell, NM 88201
As part of the national effort to increase jobs across industries during the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) developed the Federal Art Program (FAP) in support of the arts. Over the eight years of the program, 1935-1943, a significant body of public art was commissioned and approximately 10,000 artists and craft workers were supported.
In addition to art production, approximately one hundred community art centers opened nationwide with federal assistance. The Roswell Museum project was conceived by the Chaves County Archeological and Historical Society, who had outgrown their displays at the local Carnegie Library. With approval to build on City property, the Society submitted an application to the WPA and subsequently raised $1,800 in matching funds to cover the costs of building materials, while the WPA covered the labor.
Local architect Frank Standhardt modeled the museum’s design after Pueblo- and Spanish Colonial-style architecture, while the furnishings were made on site by FAP artisans and included handcarved corbels, grills, doors, and moldings which were replicas of features from the Sanctuario at Chimayo, the church of Trampas, the San Miguel church, and examples from private collections. The tin chandeliers and other lighting fixtures were made by Margery Parrish and Eddie Delgado. A hand-embroidered stage curtain, produced by the National Youth Association, adorned the stage in the main gallery until the late 1950s/early 1960s.
The Roswell Museum Federal Art Center opened on October 6, 1937. FAP traveling exhibitions filled the main hall with new shows arriving by train about every 3 weeks. Free art classes were complemented with lectures, music, and poetry readings by local and traveling FAP artists. The FAP’s traveling art exhibitions left little room for the Society’s displays, causing friction that eventually led to the City ending the property lease in 1941. After a few years of struggle as a City museum, a turning point came with the donation of 41 Peter Hurd lithographs in 1947 which resparked the community’s interest and cemented an art focus. By 1950, a new City administration, changes in the museum board and staff, and additional allocations of funding sparked infusions of vision and resources that set the stage for decades to come.
We invite you to celebrate with us the last eighty-five years and to look forward to envision our shared future. This exhibition explores the origins of this institution through archival materials and artworks. To contextualize the period of history in which our museum was founded, we have included headlines from newspapers around the world from 1937 in the Founders Gallery. Also in the Founders Gallery, we have a mural of the stage that was covered over decades ago. This mural serves as more than a memory, it is a manifestation of our commitment to re-install the stage structurally. You will also find in the Founders Gallery documentation of our architectural changes since 1937.
In the North Gallery we have displayed works from the museum’s collection that show a simultaneous range of naturalist and abstracted painting styles from the first few decades of the Roswell Museum’s existence along with historical and contemporary educational programming. Here we also acknowledge the unparalleled impact of Donald B. Anderson not only on the Roswell Museum, but on the artistic vibrancy of Roswell broadly through the residency program he instigated in 1967 that continues to thrive today.
Acknowledgments: This exhibition was a collaborative endeavor with key contributions from current and former museum staff: Caroline Brooks (Executive Director), Maria “Masha” Beitz (Preparator), Erica Entrop (Acting Public Programs Manager), Janet Freeman (Summer 2022 Intern), Jeremy Howe (Planetarium Coordinator), Kats Jimenez (Summer 2022 Intern), Cloe Medrano (Registrar), Jessica Parham (Curator of Education), Barbara Posuniak (Museum Store Manager), Aaron Wilder (Curator of Collections & Exhibitions, 2021-present), and Sara Woodbury (Curator of Collections & Exhibitions, 2013-2018). We would also like to thank several members of our community who made generous key contributions without whom this exhibition would not have been possible: Michael Beitz, Nancy Fleming and the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art, John LeMay and the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico, Priscilla Ornelas, and Larry Bob Phillips and the Roswell Artist-in-Residence Program.