Donor Story

Giving Locally for Traveling Globally

Longtime Donors’ Endowment Expands Opportunities at College of Fine Arts

By Hilary Mayall Jetty

Posted March 15, 2017

Students and faculty at the UNM College of Fine Arts (CFA) have countless options for sharing diverse artistic and cultural expressions through dance, theater, music, film and myriad art forms. Yet beyond the confines of campus lie exciting prospects for learning, performing, exhibition and collaboration, and CFA Dean Kymberly Pinder is committed to the literal expansion of creative horizons.

Assisted by funding from the CFA Dean’s Circle, the CFA Dean’s Travel Grant program has enabled more than 175 students and faculty to benefit from artistic ventures outside New Mexico.

Art Gardenswartz and Sonya Priestly enjoy a gondola ride in Venice, Italy.

Art Gardenswartz and Sonya Priestly enjoy a gondola ride in Venice, Italy.

Longtime CFA donors and Dean’s Circle members Art Gardenswartz and Sonya Priestly are inspired by Dean Pinder’s passion, and their deep appreciation for the many benefits of travel. They decided to create an endowment to allow for greater student and faculty participation in classes, symposia, competitions and events across the United States and around the globe.

“At home you are the center of your world,” said Art, “but when you travel you discover how the center of the world is different for everybody. We like the idea of students broadening their experience in that way.”

Students and faculty representing UNM have demonstrated their creative talents in locations as close as Arizona, and as far as Cuba, Switzerland, Italy and China. With experiences gained and connections forged, they return to New Mexico with fresh perspectives, eager to share them with the college and community.

Sonya and Art each earned BS degrees in business; hers at UNM’s Anderson School, his at the University of Arizona. Sonya became a CPA and Art returned to Albuquerque, his home town, to join his father’s successful sporting goods business. The couple met in the mid-1990s, and their marriage, the second for both, united their families as well as their shared enthusiasm for art and culture, travel, athletics, business and real estate ventures.

Their endowed fund at the CFA will create innovative opportunities and lifelong memories, along with collegial connections that may influence future careers.

“Art and Sonya’s generosity will enhance our ability to increase global travel funding for students and faculty, and even bring international artists to UNM,” noted Dean Pinder. “This connects them to the world beyond the classroom, and helps refine their skills for success beyond the university experience.”

“It is gratifying to realize you can touch someone’s life that you don’t even know,” remarked Sonya, “and give them a gift of travel that can open their eyes and minds.”

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