Page 35 - El Paso Scene


Page 35 - El Paso Scene
Nancy Lea is focus
of Centennial exhibit
s one of a fascinating series of
events planned for Tom Lea month,
UTEP’s Centennial Museum will
host a unique exhibition Oct. 1-Dec. 23
entitled “The Notebook of Nancy Lea,”
offering candid insights into the life and
personality of Tom Lea’s first wife.
Curator Maribel Villalva shares, “The
Centennial Museum has a special gallery
named in Tom’s honor so we felt it would
be appropriate to have an exhibition about
his life during Tom Lea Month. We are
especially enthusiastic about the theme for
this exhibition because very few details
about his first marriage have been made
public. In many ways Nancy has remained
little more than a footnote in Tom Lea’s
life story.”
Lea met the beautiful Nancy Jane Taylor
in 1925 while both were attending the Art
Institute of Chicago. The couple married
two years later,
eventually moving
to a one-room apartment in Chicago.
For the next few
years, Tom earned a
living doing odd
jobs and painting
murals while Nancy
continued her interest in writing by
making entries in a
Nancy Taylor Lea
notebook describing
life around her.
In 1933, the couple moved to Santa Fe,
N.M. where Tom built a small adobe home
on the slopes of the Sangre de Cristo
Mountains. Life was idyllic until one night
when Nancy fell ill. Tom rushed her to the
hospital but the operation to treat her burst
appendix was botched. An infection set in
and Tom took her to El Paso, where she
died in 1936.
Lea was so devastated by Nancy’s death
that he chose not to return to live in their
Santa Fe home. While packing up her personal effects for a move to back to El Paso
he found a completed novel, parts of others, a play, several short stories, plus a
series of notes describing her impressions
of coming to the Southwest, and personal
thoughts about people she had met. Lea
compiled the latter into journal form and
working with his friend Carl Hertzog, he
had 25 copies published that he gave to
family and friends.
Villalva explains, “Our exhibition
includes personal photos of their brief life
together, including the trip the couple
made to Europe. Other panels contain
excerpts from her journal, which tell
Nancy’s story in her own words. It is very
exciting to view Nancy’s world through
her own eyes. She was an artist who was a
rather feisty, independent woman, and a
feminist when that word probably wasn’t
in the vernacular. Since her goal was to
become a writer, she penned wonderful
descriptions of the world around her.”
Eighty years following Nancy’s death,
the Tom Lea Institute, in conjunction with
Four-O Publishing, have created a special
edition of “The Notebook of Nancy Lea.”
The limited edition of 25 copies will sell
October 2016
for $5,000 each. For further information
contact Carolina Franco at 533-0048.
‘A Sporting Life’
Elridge Hardie’s “Art of a Sporting Life,”
an exhibition showing in the de Wetter
Gallery of the El Paso Museum of Art, will
open Oct. 23 and run through March 5.
Comprised of 20 paintings (oil and watercolor) and two drawings, the exhibition
provides a good cross-section of work produced over Hardie’s entire career.
Curator Christian Gerthseimer shares,
“Hardie has built a solid reputation for
paintings which emphasize the appreciation of outdoor life. The artist himself is an
avid sportsman whose own bird hunting
and fly-fishing pursuits have taken him on
research trips from Scotland and Canada to
the Caribbean, the southernmost tip of
South America and to locations throughout
the US. Hardie’s familiarity with elements
such as the use of hunting dogs, the setting
of decoys and the art of fly fishing help to
make sporting moments come to life in his
As a native Texan born in the small town
of Boerne in 1940, Hardie has developed a
loyal following for his work throughout
the Southwest even though this region is
not as well known for sporting life as
regions east of the Mississippi.
Gerthsheimer, who grew up in Michigan
and has himself enjoyed both bird hunting
and fishing, has brought his own personal
insights and enthusiasm into curating this
“Art of a Sporting Life” brings an additional plus to the community, in the form
of a gift from the Museum Foundation of a
large Hardie painting, a 30” x 42” oil entitled “Fish Creek Afternoon” that will
become part of the permanent collection of
the museum.
a director and three part-time staff members, supplemented by numerous volunteers. The museum also hires contract
employees to staff their summer camps.
“My hope is to help Insights establish a
solid foundation enabling it to support a
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering
and Mathematics) program in El Paso,”
Kirchgessner said.
“My biggest aim for this year is to get a
new board in place and then start establishing the public/private relationships that
keep it going.
“We are starting to work with major funders and also to apply for grants such as
one from the National Science Foundation,
which has a $5 million museum grant that
can awarded to an individual venue. It
would be much easier to get local funding
if we get national funders and sponsors on
board. Ultimately this challenge will be in
the hands of our new board.”
She added, “Operating at our present
level is good for the time being in that we
are still able to reach many children, but El
Paso deserves a permanent location which
could accommodate the 30,000 to 50,000
visitors which such a museum should be
serving. In this regard, we are looking at
several options. We have property along
the Rio Grande near (Mount) Cristo Rey. A
feasibility study was done on this site;
however run-off and drainage issues would
make it more expensive to implement a
new museum at this location.”
Her hope is that Insights will be able to
open for regular public hours at the Alamo
School location, but this will depend on
funding and progress with the acquisition
of a future facility.
“At present, our primary concern is that
when we are open we won’t be operating
at a loss. This is especially important
because you have to have an audit when
applying for grants so we want to make
certain we have a positive fiscal status.”
Insights will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Friday through Sunday, Sept. 30-Oct. 2
and Oct. 14-16; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Friday through Sunday, Oct. 28-30. Check
their website,, for
updates on hours and events, and the
schedule for future months.
Myrna Zanetell is a freelance writer
specializing in the visual arts.
Insights Museum
After surrendering their location at Santa
Fe and Oregon streets in 2013 for the construction of Southwest University Park,
Insights El Paso Museum Science Center
has set up temporary quarters in the old
Alamo School at 521 Tays.
Mandy Kirchgessner was hired as the
new director of Insights in December
2014. Her first goal was to bring in much
needed revenue, so she worked with the
museum board to reopen the facility with
limited public hours during 2015 and
2016. Insights has welcomed thousands of
visitors during that period.
Kirchgessner, who grew up in Phoenix,
first worked with her hometown zoo. Since
then, as a recent graduate with a doctorate
in Math and Science Education, she has
worked at informal education facilities and
studied museum education around the
country. Her husband’s assignment to Fort
Bliss brought the couple to El Paso in
2012. Michael Tomor, who was then the
director of the El Paso Museum of Art,
recognized her potential, and helped her
establish a relationship within the museum
The current Insights staff is comprised of
El Paso Scene
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