The Roswell Museum Federal Art Center

Other New Mexico Art Centers

Roswell wasn't the only town in New Mexico with a community art center. The state had a total of three, with sites in Roswell (1937), Gallup (1938) and Melrose (1938). A fourth center located in Las Vegas, the San Miguel Art Center, was technically not a federal institution but participated in the program's exhibition schedule until its closure in 1939. The New Mexico art centers also shared exhibitions with Eastern New Mexico Junior College, located about an hour east of Roswell in the town of Portales.

The Melrose Art Center, located roughly 100 miles northeast of Roswell in a town of 600 inhabitants, was among the most active centers in New Mexico. Directed by Martha Kennedy, the Melrose Art Center opened in 1938 and boasted a robust class schedule and strong attendance numbers. Roswell and Melrose collaborated regularly on different projects. Roswell supplied some of the Melrose Art Center's furniture, for instance, while Melrose oversaw the creation of a hooked rug for the Rowell Museum stage. Martha Kennedy also regularly commuted to Roswell to study exhibitions before they traveled to Melrose, and occasionally transported them herself.

The art centers in Melrose and Roswell also experienced friendly rivalry in terms of visitation. Although Roswell was the second largest city in New Mexico with an average population of 12,000 between 1930 and 1940, Melrose consistently experienced higher visitation numbers. Roswell would only surpass Melrose's attendance in October 1938. As Roswell Museum director Roland Dickey wrote to State FAP Director Russell Vernon Hunter, "Mrs. Kennedy was here yesterday, and it gives me great pleasure to learn that at last the enrollment at Roswell Museum is greater than that of Melrose Federal Art Center--though it took a fair and a teachers' convention to do it. Roswell Museum had 1299 for the month of October, and Melrose had 1052." Despite its popularity, the Melrose Art Center would not survive in the long term, although it is unclear when it closed.


All documents come from the Roswell Museum and Art Center Archive.

“Melrose Center Draws Visitors,” Roswell Morning Dispatch, 8 September 1938.
Robert Sprague to Russell Vernon Hunter, 25 February 1938. 
Roland Dickey to Russell Vernon Hunter, November 9, 1938.
Russell Vernon Hunter to Mildred Holzhauer, January 12, 1939.

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