Written by Lauren E. Peña
Nestled in the heart of the Franklin Mountains, the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center has been showcasing local and international art for the past thirty some years. The Rubin Center got its start as “Glass Galleries” in 1980 and has evolved into a cultural harbor that has showcased over 150 original exhibitions from around the globe since its founding. Each visiting artist, writer and curator is of international recognition and importance. The Rubin Center also offers workshops, community outreach programs, cross-border lectures and seminars in both Spanish and English for a wide variety of audiences from spectators both on and off campus.
The Rubin Center’s director, Kerry A. Doyle, described their mission as “the idea that art serves as a catalyst for learning and dialogue about the world we live in. Our programs and internships overwhelmingly serve a majority Hispanic population, contributing to future diversity in the museum field.” The Rubin Center focuses choosing art that acts as a radical stimulus for conversation about ongoing issues right here on the border and around the globe. “We strive to be the place where contemporary art meets contemporary life,” says Doyle, “The Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts is committed to excellence in the exhibition of contemporary art that encourages adventuresome thinking and dialogue. Located at the epicenter of the Americas, we serve as a laboratory for emerging artists and innovative practitioners, providing access for an audience of multiple and diverse communities.”
The Rubin Center at the University of Texas at El Paso prides itself on standing out from other university art galleries. “We work closely with visiting artists from around the world, and with local partners in both El Paso and Juarez to use contemporary art as a platform for understanding our special place at the international border between Mexico and the United States,” Doyle says. The center’s choice to exhibit art that showcases the heart of its bi-national and cultural epicenter of a home, truly gives its city an “abrazo” of gratitude and praise.
Just closing its doors on August 9, 2019, the 2019 Annual Juried UTEP Student Art Exhibition was an opportunity for local students to have their art displayed in a gallery and get a feel for what an actual jury selection process is like. “The work is installed and exhibited in the same manner that we install professional artwork, and it gives the students the opportunity to see their work in a professional gallery setting and gives them exposure to a larger audience,” Doyle added. The exhibition was also a wonderful way to feature the talents of the UTEP Art Department.
In lieu of the Walmart massacre on Saturday, August 3, that turned our city upside down, I found many of the pieces to be deeply personal and moving. Each one giving its audience a glimpse into the history that lead to the specific piece’s existence. “Two Homes” by Jazmin Sanchez showcased a sight that was all too familiar here in El Paso—a pair of twin license plates, one from Texas and another from Chihuahua reading “home.” The sight was one many of those who grew up here in El Paso are extremely familiar with. The piece automatically drew me back to memories of scouring downtown streets for parking on Saturday mornings to go shopping amidst a sea of cars bearing those exact plates. I am reminded of bus stations, panaderias, joy and laughter pouring from a city that is welcoming and proud. I can almost hear the symphony of language flooding the atmosphere from onlookers at “Los Lagartos” at the heart of the city- English and Spanish fluttering in the air in an almost perfect dissonance. In the midst of a rather somber time I found the exhibit and its pieces a subtle reminder of the many moving parts, pieces and ideologies that make the “sun city” just that: warm and inviting.
This is exactly the line of thought and dialogue the Rubin Center wishes to create—an open conversation about bi-nationality, interculturalism, and “la frontera” that stems from provoking, contemporary art. That’s what good art does, it gets you talking. “We strive to deepen public appreciation of contemporary art and to inspire active dialogue about its social, political and cultural implications through dynamic and interdisciplinary programming, providing a framework for critical thinking about contemporary art and its place in our world,” Doyle said.
The city has much more to look forward to in the upcoming exhibitions, including a cross-border radio-tuner project coming up in November. Doyle was fervent and passionate about bringing awareness to all that the Rubin Center is doing for international art, specifically for El Paso and its sister city, Juárez. The Rubin Center welcomes visitors with open arms. The gallery is open for public viewing during weekdays from 10:00 am on and by appointment. The Rubin Center, like most El Pasoans, welcomes visitors with open arms, a warm embrace and will probably invite you to stay a while.
For more information on the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center visit their website at https://www.utep.edu/rubin/.