Above: Artist Susan Contreras is among this year's recipients of the 2021 Governor’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts. Photograph by Kate Russell.

WHAT'S THE SMALLEST DEGREE of separation between N. Scott Momaday, Maria Martinez, Georgia O’Keeffe, and George R.R. Martin? All are past recipients of the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. For 47 years, a luminous lineup of writers, potters, painters, storytellers, philanthropists, and other dream weavers have received the honor, which affirms the foundational role of art in New Mexico. The ceremony returns this fall with a virtual celebration of the 2021 class of arts stars. 

The honorees:

Individual Supporter of the Arts

Edward “Gus” Foster is an art collector and philanthropist in Taos whose accomplishments include donating nearly 400 works of art by 80 artists to the Harwood Museum of Art. (And he’s still collecting!)

Individual Artists

Ricardo Caté (Santo Domingo Pueblo) drops equal doses of Indigenous wit and wisdom into the colorful panels of Without Reservations, the country’s only Native-authored comic strip in a mainstream newspaper.

Inspired by masks and her Mexican heritage, artist Susan Contreras has risen to national fame.

Composer Dave Grusin is beloved by New Mexicans for his score for the 1988 film The Milagro Beanfield War, but his extraordinary career spans eight Oscar nominations, ten Grammy wins, and hummable themes for Tootsie, The Goonies, and On Golden Pond.

Ceramic artist Kathleen Wall has advanced the clay traditions of Jemez Pueblo. Her whimsical figurative forms and mixed-media works put Pueblo pottery in simultaneous conversation with the past and the future.

Major Contributors to the Arts

Through art galleries, festivals, classes, exhibitions, and public projects, gallupARTS fires creative pulses throughout McKinley County. Over the past year, the organization has featured pandemic-stricken artists and organizations, helping to showcase artworks via social media and virtual presentations.

Designed by architect Antoine Predock and adorned with glass installations by Dale Chihuly, the Spencer Theater for the Performing Arts, in Alto, is a crown jewel of New Mexico venues. Known for its gorgeous acoustics and intimate seating, the theater hosts performances year-round.