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Introducing an Artistic Fusion In Albuquerque: A Short History of the Albuquerque Modern Museum

Updated: Sep 24, 2022

ARTICLE + PHOTOS: Lisa Goldman (with thanks to Rayna Goldman and Carl Schmitz for editorial support). ABOVE: Herb Goldman and sculpture outside the Albuquerque Modern Museum

Where in Albuquerque could you experience dance performances, vocalists, music recitals, art exhibits, art classes, film festivals, lectures, and architectural exhibits in one place? The Albuquerque Modern Museum (AMM). And while its founders called it a Community Art Center, it was much more. Artists, performers, educators, and community volunteers joined forces to convert an old bean factory into a museum that could also hold recitals, concerts, art classes, dance classes, and demonstrations.

The Albuquerque Modern Museum was in operation from 1953 to 1956. New Mexico State Incorporation papers were filed in October of 1953. In its first year, the museum held ten exhibitions, contemporary dance classes, a children’s art and dance workshop, lectures, music recitals, two film programs, and a social event. AMM’s second year Anniversary Invitational Show included paintings, sculpture, graphics, and crafts by 35 artists from NM and surrounding areas. The Albuquerque Journal (August 20, 1955), listed artists; Rita Deanin Abbey, Douglas Denniston, Kenneth Adams, Alice Garver, Jack Garver, Malcom Brown, Agnes Martin, Joan Oppenheimer, Herb Goldman, Richard Diebenkorn, Robert Hooten, Patricia Smith, John Tatschl, Adja Yunkers, Lez Haas, Eleanor Haas, Rose Mary Mack, Enrique Montenegro, Richard Kurman, Horace Pearce, Florence Pearce, Howard Schleeter, Ted Egri, Ralph Douglass and more.

Some exhibits over the span of the three years include:

  • Approaches to Drawing

  • An Exhibition of Architectural Drawings, Photographs, and Models from 5 States

  • Sculpture by Herb Goldman, Paul Wright, and Patricia Smith

  • Women’s Painting Exhibit - Connie Fox Boyd, Rose Mary Mack, Joan Oppenheimer, and Helen Mann

  • Crafts – Jewelry, Ceramics

  • Paintings – George Blais & Eugene Alesch

  • Modern Painting Group – Douglas Denniston, Doris Byrd Yordy & Gert Berliner

  • Technical Processes in the Graphic Arts

  • Japanese Art – Woodblock Prints and Lecture

  • Paintings – Carl Coker & Connie Fox Boyd

  • Hopi Art – Paintings, Jewelry & Ceramics – With the documentary film The Hopi Road

  • Albuquerque Modern Museum Staff Show – Prints, Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture, Photography & Architectural Exhibits (works of Eugene Alesch, William Howard, Richard Kurman, Carl Coker, Arthur Koch, Herb Goldman, Paul Wright, Connie Fox Boyd, Jack Garver, Robert Walters, Frederick O’Hara, George Paul, John Adair, and Jason Moore)

  • Three Santa Fe Artists Show: - Agnes Sims, Janet Lippincott, and John McKinney

  • Black & White Photo Exhibit – NY Photographer Roy Schatt

  • Abstracts by William Vaughn Howard

Additionally, numerous student art exhibits were held including children’s art, high school students’ art, and occasional demonstrations by AMM students. The venture was greeted enthusiastically and embraced by artists and the community in general. After WWII, the timing for a rebirth in the arts was right. In the three years it was open the museum provided a variety of performances, classes, and exhibitions:

Dance – Elizabeth Water led dance workshops for children. There were dance

performances by college and professional dancers. The group, Area Dancers, performed

programs of inspired dance motifs from Mexico, Haiti, Japan, and Korea. Anne Neprud

also taught dance and rhythm.

Film- AMM hosted five scientific films, British films, American films, avant-garde films,

silent films, and accompanying lectures. The University of New Mexico (UNM) Film

Society was involved in many of these programs.

Music- Jazz, Classical, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque (with rare instruments)

performances were held, along with a number of vocalist performances, including Jane

Snow. Audiences enjoyed holiday music programs, a performance featuring music

spanning 400 years, and a concert to commemorate Mozart’s birth.

Events – AMM hosted a variety of events including a panel discussion of Albuquerque

High School and Highland High School students (discussing modern art), a Spring Party

with a live band, a jewelry and art show with prizes, an event; Youngsters Paint and Sketch

(led by Dietz, Adairs, and Simms), a Swim Party (at the “A” Pool, Albuquerque NE) with

games, music, and water ballet, and a guided tour of AMM for the American Association

of University Women junior painting group. Rehearsals and castings for Theater de

Masque were also held.

Art Classes – Painting (William Howard, Richard Kurman, Connie Fox Boyd, and K.V.E.

Wiest), sculpture (Herb Goldman and Carl Coker with Arthur Koch assisting) print-making

(Adja Yunkers, Frederick O’Hara, and Robert Walters) Landscape and Design (William Vaughn Howard), Ceramics (Hank Schreiber), Drawing (Carl Coker), Approach to Design (Jason Moore), and children’s art (Eugene Alesch) instruction was offered. Individualized

instruction allowed beginners to work alongside advanced students. Weekly sketch

classes were available.

The Albuquerque Tribune, October 22, 1955, describes Goldman’s sculpture class: “class

will begin with a study of the figure through clay modeling and drawing from the model,

leading finally to the execution of a sculpture based on the study, to be done in terra-

cotta, stucco, wood, stone, or metal-direct or cast.” In addition to teaching classes,

Goldman had studio space in the deep end of the building.

The Albuquerque Modern Museum was located on the city’s west side at 3800 Rio Grande Boulevard NW. Mrs. Neal Jenson, the owner of the building at the time, gave the founders several months free rent while they refurbished and prepared the museum with usable classrooms, a dance floor, performance and exhibition space.

According to an Albuquerque Journal article published on November 20, 1953, to announce the AMM to its Albuquerque audience, “the museum was founded by Robert Clark, law professor at UNM, Robert Fairburn, architect, Herbert Goldman, sculptor, William Vaughn Howard, painter, Robert Walters, architect, Elizabeth Waters, dance instructor at UNM, and Paul Wright, sculptor.” Copies of the original filing and articles of incorporation from September 1953, include the signatures of William Vaughn Howard, Paul Morris Wright, Robert C. Walters, Elizabeth Waters, Herbert Goldman, Robert Fairburn, and Robert Emmet Clark. An Albuquerque Tribune article dating to the museum’s one year anniversary cited Paul Wright, William Howard, and Bob Walters as the three artists to originally conceive the idea for the museum. Of course, these individuals could well have independently conceived the idea and began collaboration.

PHOTO: Billie Walters & Connie Fox Boyd at the Albuquerque Modern Museum

Various Board Members credited during its operation include Paul Wright, Dr. John Adair,

Robert Fairburn, Richard Galloway, Robert Walters, Anne Neprud, and Jason Moore. Blair Boyd was announced as the Director for the organization in 1953.

Unfortunately, the museum was not able to sustain itself financially and folded after its few vibrant years. Herb Goldman stated, “it would be very successful now, but it was too early at the time that we did it, to appeal to enough people to bring it economic security. We were always on the verge of not having enough to pay the utilities or the rent or both.”

The significance of the museum has been well documented. Connie Fox Boyd, one of the original founders, worked to select shows and the artists, along with hanging the works. In her words, “important work was done in the beginning of abstraction… and I can’t emphasize enough the artistic spirit that contained such excitement and vitality that accompanied this development not only in Albuquerque but in NY and other places.” 

The University of New Mexico put together an art show in 1989 entitled, Albuquerque ‘50s. The authors of the show’s program wrote that “despite its relatively brief duration, the Albuquerque Modern Museum must be listed high among the success stories of the arts in this city. A handful of people had a dream, and they committed themselves to its realization. Along the way, they brought together several generations of artists, dancers, musicians, students of the arts, business people, and ordinary citizens. They brought together the best of the University and the community into a fruitful union.”

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