From darkroom to digital

By Bill Knief

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At $50,000.00, the Wilder Green Art Fund Grant is a substantial and important contribution to UNM-Taos. It will be used to create a lab for digital photography and media arts on the Klauer campus.

It took Gary Cook, head of the Art Academy, more than a year to complete the grant process, which began with a family’s singular commitment to the arts.

“The whole Wilder Green family was deeply involved in the arts throughout the 60’s and 70’s—an incredible time to be in the arts in the U.S. because never before had art been so available to the public,” Cook explained. “You might say that for the first time America was developing art that was not European. And Wilder Green was at the center of it, working with major artists in the San Francisco Bay Area Painters movement.”

“When Wilder Green died his extensive art collection was sold at auction for a considerable amount of money, and the proceeds were used to set up the Wilder Green Estate so that the money from the collection could again be channeled back to supporting the arts.

“Jennifer Lindsley, a printmaker here for the past eight years, who has also been involved in the arts her whole life, informed me that money might be available. She and Nancy Park, the executor of the Wilder Green Foundation, have been close friends for many years, and it was Jennifer who made the connections that helped bring this grant to us.”

In a letter to Nancy Park, Cook described his appreciation: “It is with gratitude that the faculty, staff, administration and students of UNM-Taos accept the Wilder Green Grant for $50,000. We will continue Wilder Green’s legacy, his passion for the arts and support

for artists and art education, at UNM-Taos and in our Northern New Mexico community.”

The Estate’s generosity means that in the next couple of weeks demolition will begin on the photo darkroom at Klauer. With the advent of digital photography, the once popular chemical darkroom no longer supports large numbers of students, and it will be converted into a lab with 17 computer stations including two outside the lab so that students can work on projects while classes are going on inside the studio. While this is clearly a major accomplishment for students seeking state of the art media instruction, Cook expressed a bit of regret at the passing of the old technology:

“It has been difficult deciding what to do with the old darkroom,” he said. “We were raised in it and we feel that the hands-on experience teaches some of the visual aspects of photography better than looking at a monitor, you might say. But at main campus they have changed the Introduction to Photography class to digital. We used to divide the study of photography into darkroom work and the history and aesthetics of photography. Now the introduction is basically Adobe Photoshop with another class in how to develop content in your photographic work.

“This grant helps us keep up with a constantly changing art world. It is an expensive lab to outfit. The editing software alone will run between twelve and fifteen thousand dollars, and we will be purchasing additional video cameras and other field equipment. But it will allow us to develop our own instructional material in-house and archive our extensive art library of slides, as well as extend the technology into what I believe is the farthest reaching and most amazing art form ever devised, in terms of reaching people—digital photography and film making.

“Classes are already being scheduled for the Fall, ’08 term. We intend to be a part of the statewide incentives for film production that the Governor has put in place. Among other things we want to see northern New Mexico as a documentary film center, to provide jobs and futures for our students. A feature of the annual student art show coming up Sunday, May 4 at the Stables Gallery will be short video projects and screenplay readings by media arts students.”


“The Spring Art Show is a chance for students to get their work ready in a professional way and show it publicly. Students help set up the show and sit the show, and Student Government helps to fund it through the Art Club. It’s probably the single biggest social event that UNM-Taos puts on over the year to show student work,” Cook explained. “We expect between three and four hundred attendees at the opening alone.”

The show is not juried, so anyone who has taken classes at UNM-Taos can enter. Participating programs range from culinary arts—they are preparing chocolate delights for the May 4, 1-3:30 p. m. opening—to computer arts; woodworking to film. High school students taking dual enrollment classes will be participating as well. The exhibition will showcase paintings, drawings, jewelry, prints, ceramics, sculpture, book arts, photographs, video and woodworking from over 60 classes offered during Fall ’07 and Spring ’08 semesters.

“The quality and range are incredible,” Cook said. “It includes beginning artists as well as many professionals in the town who have taken classes here. Pat Woodall, Doug West, Barbara Zaring, Shelbee Mares, and Theresa Swain are some who come to mind. We’ve had people start with us at UNM-Taos who now have pieces in the Harwood Museum. Over the last several years there have been at least twenty-six galleries showing artists who have taken classes at UNM-Taos.

“We will have traditional as well as contemporary jewelry on display. Eddie Sanchez teaches the more traditional northern New Mexico jewelry, and Sabra Sowell teaches the more contemporary fabrication techniques. We’ve got Bernadette Track who has been teaching pueblo pottery for many years here, and her students have been doing some spectacular work. We have paintings and drawings coming from Michelle Cook’s upper division Bachelor of University Studies classes, and thanks to our new Raku kiln, there will be some fine Raku pottery in there, too.

“The show runs through Thursday, May 15, and I urge everyone to attend. It’s going to be a great event.”

About The Bill Knief