UNM restores iconic sculpture on campus

UNM restores iconic sculpture on campus

The conversation sparking and iconic sculpture ‘Fiestas Dancers’ was recently restored on The University of New Mexico campus, thanks to the work of the UNM Art Museum and Silo Workshop.

Luis Jimenez’ piece ‘Fiesta Jarabe,’ more popularly known on campus as ‘Fiestas Dancers,’ was first installed on UNM’s campus in 1996. The sculpture is located in front of the Center for the Arts, which houses Popejoy Hall and the UNM Art Museum, and is often the public face for arts on campus.

Jimenez is well known for his larger-than-life, debate-provoking fiberglass sculptures. His sculpture at UNM depicts a Mexican couple dancing a traditional Mexican hat dance, called jarabe. The work was intended to portray Southwest working-class members’ lives.

While ‘Fiestas Dancers’ is one of the more interesting pieces on campus, Jimenez made five versions of it. However, none are exact duplicates. Each have slight variations including color schemes.

According to the UNM Art Museum Director Arif Khan, ‘Fiestas Dancers’ had not been restored since its initial instillation in 1996. There was extensive damage from weather exposure causing the colors to fade drastically—which contradicts Jimenez’ bright and vibrant style. The status of the sculpture caused UNM to call in professional artwork restorers from the Silo Workshop.

The Silo Workshop had previously restored on Jimenez’ work, including the ‘Blue Mustang’ sculpture at the Denver Airport.

“The repairs took longer than expected, but our team is satisfied with results,” says Conor Hollis from the Silo Workshop. “The project included a significant amount of layering in transparent colors to achieve the depth of Jimenez’ paint work.”

UNM plans to continue to protect and restore the ‘Fiestas Dancers’ for years to come.

“Public art at the University of New Mexico makes our campus a truly unique destination, even in the midst of a state renowned for its arts and cultural institutions,” says Khan. “Protecting and caring for the University’s public art makes sure these pieces continue to remain viable for enjoyment and discovery for students, staff, visitors and guests to our campus.”

While no students were involved with the restoration, now that the extensive treatment is done, future yearly maintenance involves very easy cleaning and waxing that students could perform under supervision.

For more information, visit the UNM Art Museum.

This story was written by Victoria Pena-Parr