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DOÑA ANA ARTS COUNCIL

Albers retires from DAAC after 25 years

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My first association with DAAC was when my husband, Kelly, and I attended a Renaissance Crafts Faire (as it was called in 1987) and I thought, “This is fabulous! Whoever is running this event really knows what they’re doing!” 

We had just moved to Las Cruces from Denver, seeking a place with less traffic, less snow and a university nearby. The Renaissance Faire was a refreshing pocket of excellence. Little did I imagine that in a few years, I would be running the Faire, and then would go on to run the Arts Council itself, as well as the Rio Grande Theatre (RGT). 

Before finding DAAC, my background was in business, software development and tennis. Being an avid player, I never considered myself artistic, and while certainly interested in the arts, I never considered working in an arts-related field. But after our two children came along in 1989 and 1992, I saw how opportunities in the arts were sorely lacking for many in the Las Cruces community. It was then I found my life’s passion, and my career path was set in developing arts education opportunities for both children and adults.

What drew me to DAAC was the “Partners in Education” program DAAC and Las Cruces Public Schools had established through the Kennedy Center. The program provided a model for public schools to partner with arts organizations and provide arts integration – using arts to teach core subjects, like dance, to show how planets rotate the Sun, or music to teach math or theatre to help learn history.

I embraced the Kennedy Center philosophy, first as a DAAC Board member in 1998, then DAAC staff member staring in 2002. My mission was to advocate at the state and local levels for arts integration in all grade-level classrooms, raise money for arts-integration teacher training and present high-quality enrichment experiences for students and teachers. 

For approximately 15 years, I was privileged to work with LCPS Fine Arts Coordinator John Schutz to deliver art experiences to K-12 students and professional development in arts integration to teachers. 

In 2005, I left DAAC to work with the Las Cruces Symphony and took live symphonic music directly into the schools. I also served the symphony as general manager.

My real career adventure began in 2010 when then DAAC Board President Kathleen Squires asked me to return to DAAC to help raise funds. I learned more about grant research and writing, plus donor-development strategies.

In 2012, then DAAC Board President Scott Breckner asked me to serve as executive director and expand programming for the RGT. From 2012-17, I worked to keep the DAAC organization running smoothly with eight staff, and simultaneously functioned as RGT manager. The city wrested back control of the RGT in 2017, despite the fact that DAAC had acquired the RGT (1998-99), raised money for remodeling (1999-2002), remodeled (2003-05), hosted the RGT grand re-opening (October 2005), celebrated the 10th anniversary (2015) and programmed the RGT (2005–17). 

Now that I have some distance from the unpleasant experiences of 2017, I have a somewhat more philosophical view. Like many great adventures, there were two sides of the same coin: RGT offered a tremendous amount of back-breaking and heart-breaking work, but at the same time, a tremendous reward of satisfying work that has made a difference in the cultural and educational fabric of the Las Cruces community.   

In April 2021, it is on to a new adventure, but one that is sure to include education and the arts.

During her tenure at DAAC, Kathleen Albers added the New Mexico Heritage Series and the National Touring Series to RGT programming and began a partnership with the Santa Fe Opera to bring free performances to the theatre. She created “Artistas del Camino Real” as part of the Renaissance ArtsFaire, started Opera Storytellers Camp for third-12t-grade students and developed the “Feed Your Mind” art history and Get ArtRageous DAAC studio art programs for adult life-long learners. Albers is forming the Arte Institute for Lifelong Learning with business partner Kathleen Key. Albers officially retired from the Doña Ana Arts Council April. She served as volunteer, board member, education- and fund-development coordinator, executive director and communications director.