Navas-Nieves preserving Hispanic, Native American art legacy

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Tariana Navas-Nieves began working for the Fine Arts Center during December 2006.

Tariana Navas-Nieves lives in Denver, but her passion for art brings her to Colorado Springs every day.

As curator of Hispanic and Native American art at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, she focuses on creating permanent exhibits that display art from around the United States and Latin America.

“These important collections are built on a lasting legacy that goes back to 1936, when the museum opened,” she said. “Interestingly, the museum is one of the first institutions in the country with a focused mission of collecting art from Latin America from the post-Columbian period.”

Navas-Nieves took time recently to tell CSBJ about herself and her organization.

Organization: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center

Position: Curator of Hispanic and Native American art

Hometown: San Juan, Puerto Rico

How long have you lived in Colorado Springs: I live in Denver; I have been commuting to the Springs since I began my work at the FAC in December 2006.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in art history from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Master’s degree in art history, specialization in Latin American Art from the University of Texas. Foreign Study Program in art history at the Colegio San Juan Evangelista, Madrid, Spain.

A few words about your organization: The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center has provided the Rocky Mountain region with excellence in the arts since 1936 through three programming areas: the Taylor Museum; the performing arts department; and the education department.

The FAC has more than 4,700 members, receives 100,000 annual visitors and serves a regional population of more than 500,000 and an annual tourist market of more than 4 million.

Recent accomplishments: I feel proud of having already strengthened the 20th century collections of Latin American and American Indian works through significant acquisitions and gifts. Additionally, every exhibition I have curated or worked on, I consider a great accomplishment.

Biggest career break: A non-paid internship at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas, during the summer of 1988 under current director Marla Price.

At the end of the summer, I told her and the director that I was certain I would be back. I worked at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth until I went to graduate school in Austin during the fall of 1990.

The toughest part of your job: In the current economic climate, not having all the money necessary to accomplish what I want to.

Someone you admire: My parents. They are the strongest, smartest, wisest, selfless, loving and generous people I know.

About your family: I have been married to Lester Nieves, a criminal defense attorney, for 17 years. We have two children, Adonis and Isabella, ages 12 and 8.

Something else you’d like to accomplish: Continue curating thought-provoking exhibitions, bringing local, regional and national attention to the current artistic production by Latin American and American Indian artists, and finish the permanent collection move to the new storage facility at the FAC.

How your business will change during the next decade: I believe that it will continue to move toward an understanding and acknowledgement of a global artistic sphere. There are truly no strict barriers in the creative realm — between hemispheres, north or south, east or west. I also strongly believe we will see great productivity, since difficult and challenging times inspire powerful artistic expression.

What book are you currently reading? “Landscape, Memory and History,” edited by Pamela J. Stewart and Andrew Strathern; “Landscape and Memory” by Simon Schama; and I am listening to the latest Mary Higgins Clark mystery during my commute.

What is the one thing you would change about Colorado Springs? As you may know, the FAC is a privately funded institution. I would love for the city to develop a program such as the very successful Scientific and Cultural Facilities District in Denver.

They distribute one-tenth of 1 percent sales and use tax to organizations throughout the city.

This is a very small amount, but it becomes significant funding for a city moving toward having a vibrant artistic scene. It also represents the community’s understanding that arts and culture are necessary in our lives.