OUT WHERE THE HIGH PLAINS meet Route 66, people from all over the world are drawn to the Cowboy Arts/Western Silversmithing associate’s degree program at Mesalands Community College, in Tucumcari.

“The program gives an opportunity to discover a gift students might never have known existed,” explains Eddy Mardis, founder and lead instructor. “And you can be self-sustaining very quickly.”

Within one semester, many students can pay their tuition by selling their creations—engraved knives and ornate spurs, bits, and belt buckles—at rodeos, cowboy poetry events, and in the college’s hands-on classroom.

Open to the public for observation, the workshop offers state-of-the-art equipment for engraving, welding, bladesmithing, and soldering.

Read more: By learning the time-honored New Mexico craft of rug-making, it’s possible to weave a little culture into your soul.

“I had a disabled veteran enroll in the program who doctors said would never function normally again due to an aneurysm. He started to regain basic skills in our program. Doctors were amazed,” Mardis says. “He made a squash blossom necklace during our open shop and sold it for $8,000.”

The program’s three instructors—Mardis, Wyatt Bishop, and Eugene Ross—have more than 50 years’ combined experience in world-class silversmithing and engraving.

Want to dip your spurs in before making a two-year commitment? “Come on down,” Mardis says. “We’ve designed it for all ages and all skill levels to meet students’ needs where they’re at—even if it’s just one semester.”

Read more: One of the state’s most historic salons offers artistic solace and inspiration to a new generation of creatives.