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NMSU fine art graduate student Andrea Gohl works in the ceramics studio in Williams Hall.

W

hat does science have to do with art? Just ask Capri Price. Price ’11 received a dual degree in art conservation and chemistry at New Mexico State University and is now pursuing a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry and cultural heritage in Oregon. She joins a growing number of art students eyeing the rapidly expanding job opportunities in the field of museum conservation. She was among the first students to enter NMSU’s museum conservation program, one of only three undergraduate programs of its kind in the U.S. “Knowing when maintenance needs to be performed and when it does not potentially saves cities money, as the typical current procedure is to perform costly maintenance whether it needs to be performed or not,” Price says. Her dissertation project involves developing new methods of detecting corrosion on sculptural metalwork before it occurs. “If we can detect the earliest stages of corrosion, we can know when to perform routine maintenance on a sculpture, prolonging the life of the artwork.”

A demand for conservation jobs

A 2005 survey commissioned by Heritage Preservation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services found 80 percent of museums across the country had no preservation processes in place. The study has sparked a demand for conservation professionals and gave program director Silvia Marinas-Feliner the idea to add a museum studies certificate to her program, which gives students the skills to get a job in a museum without a master’s degree. “They are always opening these jobs,” Marinas-Feliner says. “The new trend is museums looking for people who know how to take care of collections. I really prepare my students. Pretty much all of them are getting jobs in museums.” Marinas-Feliner believes the program’s 95 percent job-placement success rate for graduates happens because they not only have a degree, but also are prepared immediately to perform conservation. She also points to the success of her students like Price who have entered prestigious graduate and doctoral programs in the U.S. and overseas and to those who have worked with the Smithsonian and other museums. Fifty students have gone through the NMSU museum conservation program since it began in 2002 with a grant from the Stockman Foundation, which has continued to support the program over the years. Although demand is high for these classes, she can only teach up to six students at a time because of the size of her lab.

Size of facility limits enrollment

The Department of Art has the seventh-largest enrollment out of 26 departments in the College of Arts and Sciences. However, enrollment is limited due to the size and age of D.W. Williams Hall, which is home to both the Department of Art and the University Art Gallery. The facility was built in 1938 as a gymnasium and served athletic and campus events before being converted for use by the art department in 1972. Although the building and annex have added square footage over the years on a piecemeal basis, a 2012 study Spring 2016 | New Mexico State University | Panorama

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Panorama - Spring 2016  

Panorama is NMSU's Alumni and Friends magazine. To read the current issue, visit https://panorama.nmsu.edu. To view the Fall 2016 issue as a...

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