Bone Springs Art Space in Roswell isn’t just where ceramic artist Miranda Howe creates art.
It’s where she teaches others to exercise their creativity, where she and other artists sell and exhibit their work, and it’s a place where the community experiences art.
Howe purchased the three-story structure in 2014. It was once where Conoco Oil operated, in a neighborhood that is now envisioned as an arts and cultural destination.
There is a large door at the back of the art space that opened so workers could easily grab deliveries arriving by train from a rail spur in front of the door, Howe said.
It also contains one of the first electric elevators in the region. Due to its age, it is not intended for visitors.
The interior design of the building was of its time – the early 20th century – with red bricks and warm-toned wood highly visible on the ground floor.
“As soon as you walk in, it’s hot,” Howe explained.
Her parents, artist Elaine Howe and entrepreneur Tom Howe, helped her create a repurposed interior design that helps expose the building’s and community’s past while making it a versatile art space.
She gestured to a sliding glass and wood door. Tom Howe obtained what is now salvaged wood from the New Mexico Military Institute to build it, for example.
Her family is full of creative people. His parents also have two artist sons: Logan and Jeremy Howe. The items they created can be viewed and purchased at the Bone Springs Art Space Gift Shop.
Other family members with artistic talents include writer and photojournalist Walt Wiggins and painter Kim Wiggins.
Howe’s grandfather, Bill Wiggins, only stopped painting two days before he died in 2012, aged 94, she said. There is a drawing of his grandfather in his studio.
Howe was looking to acquire a studio several years ago when she started looking for a location. She ended up buying the old Conoco building in 2014. The site at the 200 block of East Walnut Street has a total area of about 6,600 square feet.
The extra space would ultimately allow her to use the building in a way that could turn it into a community asset by providing event space for rent and classroom space.
She sells works of art made by other local artists or artists who have ties to the region.
She took her time with the renovation process and opened the art space in 2018. Downstairs is the exhibition area, gift shop and where she creates her own artwork . She now uses the third floor for storage, but eventually plans to turn it into a space for guest artists.
The basement is where Howe teaches art classes for students of all ages. She likes to limit class sizes to 12 students so she can guide them from start to finish.
Although her favorite medium is ceramics, most art forms could form the basis of a class, especially when children are the learners, she said.
“I like to provide a variety of materials,” Howe explained. “Things they don’t normally have access to.”
Although there is good quality art education in local schools, teaching independently gives her and her students more time to reflect and complete their artwork.
Other classes – especially those for adults – are based on professionally created artwork currently on display.
“People are looking for a creative experience,” she explained.
Howe introduced a class called “Dirty Dozen”. She said it attracted learners from all walks of life.
These monthly three-hour sessions are for adults with little or no experience with ceramics or making other art forms. Students are guided through the process of creating a ceramic piece.
Once they have finished their works, they leave them at Howe to heat them in the kiln. Students get their finished items back in about a week.
“It offers a tactile experience that’s also safe with a high degree of success,” Howe explained.
Another course for adults is “Read, Watch, Make”. After reading a book highlighting a particular artist, the class comes together to discuss the book, eat, and watch a film about the same artist. The next day, the students return to create a work of art in a style characteristic of that artist.
When the featured artist was Michelangelo, students learned about his life and artistry by reading a biography of the artist by author Irving Stone, “Agony and Ecstasy,” in preparation for the Classes.
They came to the first class and discussed the book, had a meal, and watched the movie of the same name with Charleton Heston and Rex Harrison.
They all returned the next day for a fresco painting, which was the style used by Michelangelo to create the images on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
“It’s a really nice way to get to know an artist that we’ve all heard of,” she commented.
Big cities have lots of ‘cool’ art buildings, but in Roswell, ‘Bone Springs is the coolest art gallery space,’ said Nancy Fleming, a local artist who is director of the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art and Certified Art Teacher.
The two women have worked together on a variety of endeavors as entertainers and other community endeavours. She describes Howe as someone who can carefully plan and execute projects.
That kind of thought process is why Howe is likely to be someone whose decisions will have a lasting impact on the future of Roswell, Fleming said.
Howe envisions the neighborhood as a vibrant place for art and commerce. The two women said the art space could provide an anchor in this type of commercial area.
“We’re super lucky she scouted the space, spent the time and money to fool him,” Fleming said. “It offers incredible programming that Roswell didn’t have before.”