the Governor's Arts Award Winners

Helen R. Lucero


2017 Recipient, Major Contributor to the Arts

Dr. Helen R. Lucero has spent her entire career helping to promote and educate the public about the Hispanic arts of New Mexico. One of the first female Hispanic curators in the country, Lucero served as director of visual arts at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, associate curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American Art, curator of Hispanic Arts for the University of New Mexico Art Museum, and curator of Southwestern Hispanic Art at the Museum of International Folk Art (MOIFA). "Few scholars have been such pioneers both as a researcher in the world of traditional arts, and as a ceiling-shattering leader in the world of professional museum practice," said Andrew Connors, Curator of Art at the Albuquerque Museum. "Helen has opened so many doors, not just for herself, but for subsequent generations hoping to contribute something substantial to the world of ideas."

Born in Vadito, Lucero grew up in her grandparent's adobe house with no running water, an outhouse in the back, and a kerosene lamp to light her high school homework. She was the first in her family to go to college and one of a very small number of Hispanic women to receive a Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico in 1986.

Catalina Delgado Trunk, who received a Governor's Arts Award in 2015, said Lucero has been a steady mentor and supporter of her artwork. "She has constructively critiqued my work by encouraging me to develop as an artist," Delgado Trunk said. "Her gift to me is priceless." Lucero was key to the opening of the ground-breaking Hispanic Heritage Wing at MOIFA - the first museum gallery in the country dedicated to the Hispanic arts - and was co-curator of its celebrated inaugural exhibition Familia y Fe, a tribute to the artistic legacy and culture of Hispanic New Mexico.

She co-authored Chimayo Weaving: The Transformation of a Tradition, the first scholarly publication to recognize this weaving tradition and the weavers of northern New Mexico. "She remains the expert on Chimayo weaving and its history," said Robin Farwell Gavin, chief curator of the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, who first met Lucero when they were both new curators at MOIFA. "Although I had studied Spanish Colonial art at UNM and lived in New Mexico since 1974, what I had learned about the traditional art of New Mexico was academic, stylistic and distant. What Helen taught me was about its soul."