New Mexico Highlands University media arts graduate Jason Valdez, left, of Las Vegas works at the Museum of New Mexico Press with Art and Production Manager David Skolkin as part of a new AmeriCorps grant the university’s Media Arts Program secured .

The New Mexico Highlands University Media Arts Program received a new $190,722 federal AmeriCorps grant that puts students to work in New Mexico museums and other cultural institutions where they are making their mark using the latest multimedia technology.

Eight Highlands University media arts students and graduates have already landed positions in New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs sites like the National Hispanic Cultural Heritage Center in Albuquerque and the Museum of New Mexico Press in Santa Fe.

Highlands media arts students are applying for seven additional positions that the AmeriCorps grant funds. The grant is part of an ongoing partnership between media arts and DCA that focuses on cultural technology.

“The purpose of this AmeriCorps grant is to let our media arts students share their knowledge and skills with our state cultural institutions,” said Miriam Langer, who heads the university’s Media Arts Program. “They are highly skilled in design technology and bring a fresh point of view to the evolving needs of cultural communities around the state. Our students are excited to implement the newest multimedia technology in the museums they are serving through AmeriCorps.”

The students are considered AmeriCorps volunteers and receive living allowances, education awards, and training during their job assignments.

Las Vegas native and 2009 media arts graduate Jason Valdez starting working in September as an AmeriCorps volunteer at the Museum of New Mexico Press.

“I was impressed with Jason’s portfolio, and he has hit the ground running here at the press,” said David Skolkin,longtime art and production director for the Museum of New Mexico Press. “We already have Jason laying out a book, designing book covers, and taking over the design and production of our catalogue. He is showing great skill and competency, and we’re very glad to have Jason as part of our team.”

Valdez said his AmeriCorps position gives him the chance to give back to educational institutions and museums.
“I’m passionate about the books I’m working on that help keep New Mexico history alive and available for the public in book form,” Valdez said. “It’s the internet age but books still have a life span of their own.

“I’m very grateful for this AmeriCorps opportunity because it’s also a chance for me to get my foot in the door in the industry and be mentored by David Skolkin, who is phenomenal,” Valdez said.

Other recent media arts graduates serving through AmeriCorps include:

Eric Maldonado, City of Las Vegas History Museum and Rough Rider Memorial Collection

Angelo Mitchell, National Hispanic Cultural Center, Albuquerque

Carlos Mendivil, Governor’s Gallery, Santa Fe

Michael Jackson, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, Albuquerque

Current media arts students with AmeriCorps assignments to date include:

Melissa Marquez, Roswell Museum and Art Center

Jonathon Lujan, Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, Santa Fe

Jeana Francis, Bradbury Science Museum, Los Alamos

“We really appreciate how the host institutions are committed to mentoring this new generation of museum and cultural professionals,” said Lauren Addario, a media arts instructor who coordinates the university’s new AmeriCorps program as well as internships. “Our students are thrilled to be working in their fields. Many thought they wouldn’t have the opportunity in this tough job market.”