Programs & Services

Legacy & Inspiration

STEAMing Into the Future

From the discovery of fire to the Mars Rover team naming geologic structures on the Red Planet after the site along El Camino Real, all of mankind’s progress has been achieved by thinking and the people who think. How we learn to think is a critical piece of the equation.

Now you hear a lot about teaching students how to think through a STEM education focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. While an excellent start to honing critical thinking skills, STEM is missing something critical: A for Art. The next time you hear someone say STEM education, change the dialogue to STEAM — Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics.

Art is a critical component of every society, and in New Mexico, it is literally our bread and butter. Three years ago, the UNM Bureau of Business and Economic Research quantified the impact of arts and cultural industries in New Mexico at $5.6 billion a year, accounting for one in ten jobs statewide. There is no reason to think that number has shrunk.

In 2018, the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs dedicates our educational efforts toward STEAM education, Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics. Among the centerpieces of our 2018 STEAM curriculum is the New Mexico Museum of Art Centennial and three new exhibitions, and the world-class blockbuster exhibition coming to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in February — Da Vinci — The Genius.

Long before New Mexico became a state nearly 106 years ago — prescient leaders were already creating a marketable identity for the fledgling state’s capital city. They looked to the sky, the landscape, the weather, the stunning sunrise and sunsets, the unique architecture the skilled artisans — among the indigenous people and artists who migrated here, and the allure this magnificent desert landscape had already proven to be to both artists and tourists. The area’s growing appeal was obvious from the steady influx of tourists who came West enjoying the safety and relative comfort of the railroad.

When New Mexico became a state on January 6, 1912, Santa Fe catapulted to hold the title of the oldest capital city in the United States, having been founded by Spanish colonists in 1610. Upon statehood, Santa Fe leaders advocated adherence to the city’s long-established distinctive Pueblo-style, Southwestern adobe architecture — as the City’s signature building style. They obtained the land and funding, then commissioned the design and construction of the state’s first art museum, strategically placing the Pueblo-style building off a corner of the historic Santa Fe Plaza, a metaphor for the museum’s significance as a cornerstone in Santa Fe’s growing reputation among artists and art collectors.

When the New Mexico Museum of Art opened its doors November 25, 1917 — it offered artists both studio space to create their art and exhibition space to display it. The roots of Santa Fe’s modern-day reputation as a world-class art market can be traced back to the seminal moment in the state’s history, when the New Mexico Museum of Art opened its doors embracing the region’s artists. The collective shared vision of these community activists resulted in the reputation Santa Fe has enjoyed for the past century as a world-class destination for artists in all mediums and art collectors.

This November 25, 2017 — the New Mexico Museum of Art proudly reopens its doors, after a two-month renovation, with three new exhibitions as it STEAMs into its second century of service to New Mexicans.

Each of these exhibitions celebrates the Museum of Art’s significances as the center of a major creative crossroads that spanned the twentieth century and this selection of work highlights the impact of the Museum in shaping an artistic identity for the state.

Horizons shows the wide and dynamic range of styles, personalities, cultures, and forms that visual creative expression took in the twentieth century.

Contact, Local to Global presents work from the latter half of the twentieth century to present day and highlights the Museum of Art’s contact with artists and collectors and New Mexico’s engagement with the national and international arts communities.

Shifting Light offers a twenty-first–century perspective on the museum’s long-term engagement with the popular medium of photography.

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a glimpse inside the complex and agile mind of one of the world’s greatest geniuses is being offered to New Mexicans and visitors next February 10 through July 29, 2018 — at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science presentation of Da Vinci — The Genius from Grande Exhibitions.

Leonardo da Vinci was an uncommon talent at a very uncommon time: the Italian Renaissance. Born out of wedlock in the year 1452, da Vinci was forced by his modest circumstances to make his own way in the world. He was largely self-educated, using his insatiable curiosity and observational skills to create artworks of extraordinary beauty and hundreds of inventions of every possible type. He was an artist, inventor, musician, scientist, and philosopher. Hundreds of years before these inventions became commonplace, he designed a car, prototypes for manned flight, a bicycle, scuba gear — so many things that it was difficult to provide the full range of his interests within this 10,000-square-foot exhibition.

According to Michael J. Gelb, the author of How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci (Delacorte Press, 1998), curiosity is one of seven important steps to emulating da Vinci’s genius. An examination of his life and his work inspires one to utilize all his or her talents, and is very much a survival skill relevant to living one’s best life today. The seven steps are: curiosity, problem-solving, creative-thinking, self-expression, enjoying the world around you, goal setting and life balance, harmonizing mind and body.

 Leonardo da Vinci is universally hailed as one of the world’s geniuses. What made this unique, gifted individual so revered throughout the years? Are there lessons in his multi-disciplinary approach, analytical observation, and his power to use these processes to create that could inform us today? Da Vinci-inspired programming has been developed that extrapolates what we can learn from the life and interests of one of the world’s true Renaissance men. In addition, celebrated author Gelb outlines seven key processes that unleash the genius in everyone.

As part of the curriculum associated with Da Vinci — The Genius, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science will present “Da Vinci Dialogues,” a program series that illustrates the many facets of Leonardo’s genius as an artist, inventor, and scientist. The program will consist of a series of lectures, panel discussions, and workshops that encourage interactive dialogue with the audience.

Whether they were aware of it or not, Santa Fe’s early leaders displayed curiosity about establishing an identity for the nascent state’s capital city. They employed problem solving and creative thinking to create a place where artists could self-express, for the artists and those who appreciate their work to enjoy the world around them, and these forward-thinking leaders were setting goals to create a life balance to harmonize the community.

Critical thinking skills and how they evolved to sustain and support the many groups of indigenous people from different tribes who shared a common language, is the focus of the forthcoming Museum of Indian Arts and Culture exhibition Lifeways of the Southern Athabaskans. The exhibition opens in early December and runs through mid-2019.

Finding sustenance is the commonality among all living creatures, and an occupation that proved to be a catalyst for change and innovation among all people often involving STEAM principles that these earliest crafters and creators were no doubt aware. Emblematic of that struggle for sustenance and the advancement among the indigenous peoples, the New Mexico History Museum this year established a new working horno (oven) in the courtyard.

In early December, the Museum of International Folk Art offers a glimpse how people have used folk art through the years to overcome adversity and strengthen community. Crafting Memory: The Art of Community in Peru offers examples of contemporary Peruvian weaving, textiles, retablo-making, and silversmithing.

The lifestyles of generations who lived in the Alcalde area, even before New Mexico statehood can be traced at the Los Luceros Historic Property. The evolution of thought and innovation throughout the centuries can be traced through artifacts and the stories surrounding this unique and scenic property.

Instilling a love of learning and supporting the growth and development of creativity involves the use of all our capabilities. Leonardo da Vinci was a genius for whom whole person learning resulted in many famous inventions and remarkable, timeless art pieces. Early Santa Fe leaders, used their vision to create what has become the largest state cultural institution of its kind in the United States.

Across the nation, schools and informal learning institutions continue to increase their focus on STEAM — and the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo is onboard. It hosts a new program about Girl Scout badges for robotics, design challenges, and other space- and aviation-related themes.

Each month, the National Hispanic Cultural Center features multiple events that reinforce STEAM through programs that offer both children and adults the opportunity to be creative while learning about the science behind certain artistic techniques.

Last summer archaeologists used their expertise and vision to unearth some fascinating new facts about the Coronado Historic Site near Bernalillo during the Dig Kuaua! The significance of the dig’s findings is only beginning to be fully interpreted.

Ingenuity and the STEAM behind it are key components that tell the story of this region’s agricultural history. The New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces celebrates that ingenuity daily with exhibitions featuring tools and implements designed with few resources to accomplish whatever task needed to be done.

Find a spark of inspiration through the legacies of the geniuses of the past at one of New Mexico’s museums and historic sites during the coming year. A perfect holiday gift for your loved ones would be to give the gift of culture. Our New Mexico CulturePass allows admission to each site one time during a calendar year for $35. Order it at

And, never be lost or clueless about the site you are visiting or what attraction is nearby. Find your way to these sites, and to other points of interest by downloading your free New Mexico Cultural Atlas mobile app at

New Mexico CulturePass

Your ticket to New Mexico's exceptional Museums and Historic Sites.
From Indian treasures to space exploration, world-class folk art to awesome dinosaurs—our museums and monuments celebrate the essence of New Mexico every day.
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Cultural Atlas of New Mexico Mobile App

Where do you belong?
The Cultural Atlas of New Mexico leads you to historic and cultural places throughout the Land of Enchantment. Organized by region, proximity and interest, the Cultural Atlas will help you find where you belong.

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