With a joint population of 1.8 million, the El Paso/Juarez area is one of the largest binational urban environments in the world. An estimated ten percent of our student body drives across the border from Juarez each day. Many more of our students were born in Juarez, have lived or studied there, and have personal histories and family connections on both sides of the heavily militarized line that divides the two cities.
The Rubin Center’s audience, which is about evenly split between campus and community visitors, also shares these characteristics, and is comprised not only of people from both El Paso and Juarez, but a large percentage of borderlanders that call both cities home. Our audience’s understanding of the border is both nuanced and complex and is built on many layers of experience, memory and identity.
Since opening in 2004, the Rubin Center has organized more than 100
exhibitions of contemporary art with artists from throughout the United States and Latin America and from around the globe. More than 80% of our students are Mexican-American or Mexican nationals, demographics similar to those of El Paso. With each exhibition we host a roster of visiting artists, writers and curators of international recognition and importance. Artists create site-specific installations, give public lectures, and conduct workshops in both Spanish and English for diverse audiences from both on campus and off.
Our participation in the New Cities Future Ruins collaborative follows the Rubin Center’s long-standing commitment to address critical border issues and connect communities on both sides of the US-Mexico border through contemporary art practices. Our participation brings the special perspective of border cities to conversations about urbanism and environmental sustainability, and highlights the inevitably international nature of both problems and solutions in the region.
We have developed an interdisciplinary team to guide our participation in NCFR, whose combined interests lie at the crossroads of borders and sustainability, particularly in relation to water and energy usage in the region. Our campus partners include the Center for Interamerican and Border Studies, the Center for Environmental Resource Management, who are currently collaborating on a cross-border project on water and sustainability at the US-Mexico Border, and the Hunt institute for Global Competitiveness, whose core mission is to aggregate data and map problems and resources across international and state borders in the region.
We are currently working together with our campus partners and the New Cities Future Ruins curatorial team to organize 1) an interdisciplinary course for undergraduate students at UTEP that addresses the environment from the view of art, science and design; 2) speakers series featuring international artists working on topics related to the NCFR initiative, with a particular focus on border issues; 3) the collaborative creation of a series of 3-5 large-scale, site-specific artworks by international artists invited to participate in short-term residencies at the border.
By Kerry A Doyle