New visual arts building named after transformational duo

New Mexico State University and partners broke ground on a new visual arts building and gallery today.

NMSU’s Board of Regents voted earlier this month to name the building Devasthali Hall in honor of Ammu and Rama Devasthali, who have championed the project for several years.

“Rama and I are deeply appreciative of the honor that Chancellor Carruthers and the university have bestowed on us by naming the soon-to-be-constructed art building Devasthali Hall,” Ammu Devasthali said. “It seems almost unbelievable that this building is actually going from being an ambitious dream to reality.

“Thanks to the Chancellor, the NMSU Foundation, the art faculty, students, alumni and our community for believing in this vision. It took all of our efforts and financial backing, and in the end, this facility will be well worth it. Our students deserve nothing less.”

The duo immigrated to the U.S. several years ago with minimal financial means but worked tirelessly to achieve their professional success, allowing them to give back to the community that provided so much for them. Devasthali Hall is one of few buildings on campus that is not in honor or memory of a campus administrator, but instead in recognition of transformational community leaders who embody NMSU’s diverse student population and passion for the arts.

“This project would not have been possible without the help of Ammu and Rama Devasthali,” NMSU System Chancellor Garrey Carruthers said. “They were instrumental in demonstrating NMSU’s need for a new art facility. They also helped in raising private donations for the project and promoted the General Obligation Bond with voters. Their personal generosity, private investments and infectious passion for the arts have been crucial in leveraging additional gifts and public support that might not otherwise have existed. It’s only fitting that this building will bear their name.”

The $22.5 million approved by voters in 2016 as part of General Obligation Bond C will replace the nearly 80-year-old converted gymnasium. Currently, the building houses not only NMSU’s Department of Art but also the University Art Gallery, which will be rebuilt into a state-of-the-art facility for students and the community.

“Construction for the new art building will take approximately 16 months,” said Heather Zack Watenpaugh, NMSU’s university architect and campus planning officer. “The building is expected to be ready for occupancy in the fall 2019 semester.”

During the construction phase, Watenpaugh explained the Department of Art and University Art Gallery will remain open in D. W. Williams Hall until Devasthali Hall is completed. The site of the new facility will be just behind the current building located at Solano and University Avenue.

“This is the result of a true collaborative effort that involved active participation from both NMSU and community members,” said Enrico Pontelli, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “This is a testimony of how important this project is for both NMSU and the city of Las Cruces.”

Support for Devasthali Hall through the NMSU Foundation’s Giving Tuesday events and challenge-matching funds from the Devasthalis generated more than $500,000 over the last two years. In total, $3.1 million has been raised in private funds for the new facility.

“Our students are excited about the new facilities,” said Julia Barello, art professor and head of NMSU’s Department of Art. “They deserve an up-to-date learning environment that hones their technical expertise and prepares them to be competitive as they move into the professional realm.

“We are deeply grateful to the Devasthalis, whose hard work has made this project come to fruition. The department is so proud that our new home will be Devasthali Hall.”

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