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Former UTEP professor contributes to campus art department

UTEP Professor Rachelle Thiews makes the first of an annual $25,000 endowment to the art department.

Metal artist and retired UTEP professor Rachelle Thiewes has made the first of what will be an annual $25,000 endowment to the members of the university’s art department in hopes that the money will be used to help fund their research.

“I’ve had a great career teaching at UTEP and wanted to give something back to the university upon retiring,” Thiewes said. “My first instinct was to create a scholarship for art students at UTEP, but I realized that the faculty is really the behind-the-scenes backbone of the university.”

Vincent Burke, chairman of the art department, said that Thiewes’ endowment will support the research and production of artwork by faculty members, with the goal to help artists exhibit their work to both national and international audiences.

“This is an important facet of this gift, which will help our faculty to further deepen and evolve their professional studio practice, and will help support our quest to achieve tier-one research status in the visual arts,” Burke said. 

The endowment is open to all faculty of the art department. Thiewes will ask participants to create a project proposal to be presented to a panel of art experts, explaining how the project’s completion will impact the artist’s career and audience. Participants will be given 18 months to complete their projects.

“Research for art faculty can be very costly. They need to fund a studio, equipment and materials,” Thiewes said. “Unfortunately, there is very little grant money available for individual research in the arts, thus most art faculty self-fund
their projects.”

Thiewes retired this May after running UTEP’s metals area for 38 years. She is a well-known jeweler, whose products are designed to engage and challenge the wearer, making them an active participant. Her work has been displayed across the world, throughout the United States, England, and Scotland as well as having appeared in numerous publications.

“Rachelle has always been grateful for the support UTEP has shown her throughout her career. She has flourished in every way and has given our university 38 years of outstanding service,” Burke said. “I would argue that even before this wonderful gift to our department, Rachelle had already given more than she
has ever received.”

Some of Thiewes’ work can be found on UTEP’s grounds, allowing her legacy to live on with the school she has been a part of since the 1970s. She continues her work around the country through projects and various ways of inspiring other artists.

“I currently have a retrospective exhibition going on at the Rubin Center for Visual Arts on campus, titled ‘Something Gleams,’” Thiewes said. “In November, I open a solo exhibition at Mobilia Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Currently, I’m working in my studio preparing work for that show.”

Cristelda Lopez, a UTEP alumna, said Theiwes was her metals professor while she was at UTEP.

“She is someone who always expects your best and, as a professor, encourages you to achieve it,” Lopez said. “Rachelle’s discipline, passion and commitment to her artwork and students is admirable. She has been a role model to me and motivates me to pursue my interests, as well as following her steps in giving back
to the community.”

Thanks to Thiewes’ generosity, the art department will benefit for years after her retirement. With every artist striving to improve, the donations will help bring art students and faculty closer to their goals from one artist to another.

Joseph Esposito may be reached at [email protected].

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Former UTEP professor contributes to campus art department