Women Making the Region a Brighter Palette
Photos by Bernie Maese; Hawk and Hero Productions
Hair & Makeup by Heather Deshea Harrison
Styling by Edwardo Herrera
Wardrobe by ARMOIRE
The art world is populated with an overwhelmingly large male presence, yet locally there is a collective of women who are taking strides to help promote, create and protect the arts in the El Paso region.
In the first of a series of articles, The Art Avenue Magazine sets out to highlight women who are breaking down barriers in the art community by way of philanthropists, professors and promoters helping to recognize and protect the rights of quality artists in the region.
Rachelle Thiewes was featured in The Art Avenue issue “Play” in May 2014 is an artist working in jewelry design and a former UTEP art professor, says it is difficult for contemporary artists to gain local recognition but urges them to keep trying, “If you want to get beyond local you have to be fearless, you have to bang on doors.” Thiewes credits her artistic success to her parents, who were both artists. “My dad was a master hand engraver and my mom was a designer and seamstress. They taught (me) to see artists as one, not female versus male.” She admits she has had great success in her career, but it’s hard for her to articulate that to others. “I think I’ve had great things happen. I’ve been published in many books and my work is exhibited (in) galleries on an international level, but I’ve worked really hard.” Working hard consisted of countless hours either in her studio at home creating new and innovative pieces or teaching students at UTEP. She says there was a continuous rhythm to her climb to the top. Now retired, Thiewes was passionately devoted for 37 years in her position as head of the metals program in the art department at UTEP. As a professor she admits she wanted to change things up a bit, “I wanted the students to come to school because something good was happing. I wanted to interest them and challenge them.” Thiewes encourages artists to do their research and find out where they belong…where there art belongs. She highly suggests engaging them in the regional art scene and always follow up on someone that has purchased your art. She currently has work in The Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., an exhibit in the Gold Museum in Taipei and an upcoming show in Boone, South Carolina.
Kathleen Hope Crook
Attorney Kathleen Hope Crook left the Department of Commerce in Baltimore last year and returned to El Paso specializing in business asset protection, intellectual property, privacy and data security. She has established her own law firm with a passion for protecting the rights of musicians and artists. “Common errors most artists do is give away their work and not understanding the full value of their work,” said Crook. She enjoys helping artists protect their work by encouraging them to copyright it. “The first step is to register it with a copyright office and photograph it. Keep a record of all your work.” Crook continues, “If something were to happen to you, you need a contingency plan. Who gets your work?” She says artists and musicians should treat their work as a business and it needs to be protected, “I’ve helped musicians get out of contracts because they didn’t know what they were signing.”
“Right after I graduated from Southern Methodist University with a degree in art history I returned to El Paso and attended an exhibition at the Mexican consul. This was the first time I purchased a piece of art—I bought two pieces (Oaxacan style art) and befriended the curator of the exhibition,” said Isha Rogers, local philanthropist. This would be the start of a long and loving relationship with the art world, specifically her involvement on a regional level. Rogers is a text book definition of what a philanthropist is—she has been a board member of the previous Bridge of Contemporary Arts, and is currently involved in Texas Women in the Arts, sponsors the Isha Rogers Sculpture Gallery at the El Paso Museum of Art and is instrumental in supporting performance arts, specifically the El Paso Opera. “I went to the opera a lot with my mom when I was growing up, so I hope she would be proud,” said Rogers. Some of the artists currently hung in her home include Manuel Acosta, Suzi Davidoff, Coleen Drake, Gaspar Enriquez, Diego Martinez and Rachelle Thiewes.
Lisa Marie Skaf
The El Paso City Ballet artistic director, Lisa Marie Skaf, has two feet that don’t stay still. If she isn’t performing a piece from her favorite composer, she is busy promoting performances in El Paso. Skaf, a graduate of Loretto Academy, has spent the last five years blazing trails through downtown El Paso speaking with sponsors, event organizers and performance art lovers in hopes of garnering enough attention to introduce the arts on a level to which this community has not encountered. Her last endeavor, Ballets with a Twist, had The Plaza Theatre packed with guests interested in an innovative take on ballet.