A faint sound of a motor engine rumbles in your ear as you enter the building. When you look to your right, high above the ground, there’s a video of a couple of people floating in air and you automatically feel like you’re in space.
The flying, the colors, and the vast, clean space make “Territory of the Imagination,” the Rubin Center’s exhibition and the celebration for it’s 10th anniversary, entertainingly futuristic.
“In our tenth anniversary we wanted to think about where we were at and so in a playful way, we are looking towards the future. These are all futuristic topics and imagery,” Kerry Doyle, managing director, said. “We also wanted to think of our strengths and how we could get those in an exhibition setting, so these exhibitions are bringing a lot of artists to do installations that deal with border issues.”
In the spirit of celebrating the exhibition, which runs through Feb. 27, and the center’s 10th anniversary, here are a few of the things that make the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts so special.
It’s not just a museum
The Rubin Center is not the Rubin Museum, it is the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts and its mission is broader than that of just a museum.
“We have three fantastic gallery spaces and we put on anything between nine and 12 contemporary art shows a year. Last year, we did 58 public programs with a mix of contemporary border culture, contemporary art, literature in Spanish and English and interdisciplinary topics. So, we really see ourselves as a hybrid between a university space and a community space and a space where those two audiences can meet,” Doyle said.
The exhibitions have a unique mission
The main curatorial mission is to bring nationally and internationally recognized art to the university campus. The exhibitions also relate to the border in some way or respond to the community’s environment. Some exhibitions have “site-specific work or commissions,” where the artist makes the work at the center.
The exhibitions also have a main focus on participatory or interactive works that engage the community.
“We are part of the department of arts and we try to show a range of media, show both those media that are being taught in the department like drawing and painting and ceramics and print making and compliment it with media that is not being taught but is still and important part of the student’s contemporary experience, which are video installation, sound works and things like that,” Doyle said.
Outreach programs and events
The Center reaches out to students across the El Paso community to expose students them to university studies in the arts.
Fine Arts Family Days are conducted at least three times a year, providing a multi-generational art experience for families.
Exhibitions also offer multiple ways for audiences to access and interact with the pieces. There are programs and workshops that are related to the exhibitions that range from a calm and art-focused environment to a more conversational tone.
It is located on a university campus
The center was a gift from El Paso’s Stanlee and Gerald Rubin. Doyle said UTEP President Dr. Diana Natalicio saw this gift as an opportunity to create a large, significant art space on campus.
At the time, founding director Kate Bonansinga, was teaching in the UTEP art department and running the main gallery at the Fox Fine Arts building. She had a lot of experience with museums and helped shape the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Arts, guiding its growth from 2004 until 2012, when Doyle took over.
They hire students and it is student run
Much of the supporting work at the Rubin Center is done by UTEP’s talented students. The center usually hires up to eight student interns a semester and the majority of the positions are paid.
“The design that we do, the exhibitions that go up, the educational program that we do are really driven by our student interns and their leadership. They learn a lot being interns here, but they also give a lot back and that’s really at the core of who we are and what our practices are. It’s a big part of our mission, too, is to train museum professionals for the future,” Doyle said.
Auditorium provides a stage for a variety of programs
The auditorium within the Rubin Center was used for art history courses, but it eventually went offline as the use of classrooms has shifted on campus over the years.
However, now the auditorium is open anyone on the university campus and they are allowed to program in it as long as they adhere to the center’s mission. The programs must relate to contemporary art, contemporary border culture, interdisciplinary conversations and like-minded topics in the arts.
The use of the auditorium is free and the Rubin Center helps publicize the events through its mailing list, which “broadens the reach of their program and so people know that something interesting is always happening here,” Doyle said.
The Rubin Center is located by the parking lot in between the Sun Bowl and the Fox Fine Arts building and is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 am to 7 pm, Fridays from 10 am to 5pm, and Saturdays from noon to 5:00pm.