Stuart Ashman

Stuart A. Ashman (1948---) was born in New York. His young years were spent in Matanzas and Cuba. Returning to New York to attend the City University of New York, he received a Bachelors of Art in Photography and Fine Art.  Graduate studies ensued at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Henrietta, New York. His mentors included famed photographers, Paul Caponigro and Minor White [1]. By the late 1970’s, the bohemian nature of Santa Fe, at the time, was a desert beacon, and a place he has worked for much of his career. 

Ashman not only waited tables at the Palace Restaurant but also taught art variously at the Santa Fe Preparatory School to the New Mexico State Penitentiary. However it was his job working at the Armory for the Arts from 1978 to 1980 as Visual Arts Coordinator that set the stage for his later work. As so often with work in the art field, the duties were quite varied. 

After a number of artist in residencies, in 1990, he led his first nonprofit, Art with Elders, a part of Open Hands in Santa Fe, that sadly closed in 2012. Ashman had in the meantime become Director of the Governor’s Gallery in the New Mexico State Capitol, under the umbrella of the New Mexico Museum of Art. In 1995, he was appointed Director of this institution, then called the Museum of Fine Arts, where he stayed until 2000.

Overseeing the creation and operation of the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, Ashman continued there for three years.

Transitioning to state government, he became Secretary of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs under Governor Bill Richardson, from 2003 to 2010 [2]. This monumental position oversees the vast cultural resources of the state. In 2011, he directed the Latin American programs at the Richardson Institute for Global Engagement (former Governor Bill Richardson).

Moving to Long Beach, California, he became the President and CEO of the Museum of Latin America (MOLA), a private institution. From 2011 to 2016, he oversaw the accreditation of the museum from the American Alliance of Museums (formerly American Association of Museums) [3].

Returning to Santa Fe, he assumed leadership and lead curatorship of the Center for Contemporary Arts, in May 2016, resulting in financial solvency and success. In 2018, Ashman became the CEO of the International Folk Art Market, a position he still holds.  His ties enabled a line of communication with Cuban artists [4].

Margaret Lefranc met Ashman just at the time he was appointed to lead the Governor’s Gallery under Governor Bruce King where Lefranc had been contracted for an exhibition under his predecessor before asbestos was discovered in the Capitol which had to be remediated.  Three years later, Sandra d’Emilio and Ashman co-curated a show in 1992 for the Governor’s Gallery, though not the one woman exhibit as had been promised earlier to Lefranc that was titled, Three Women Working in New Mexico.  Ashman thought he and Lefranc may have met in Miami, but McKenzie discovered that it was at Ron Pokrasso’s Graphics Workshop in Santa Fe during the 1980’s.

He knew Lefranc’s work through her fine illustrations from 1948, his birth year, of Maria: The Potter from San Ildefonso.  Ashman was a part of A Lifetime of Imaging, a mini retrospective of Lefranc held at St. John’s College Gallery. He also welcomed the important traveling exhibition, Independent Spirits: Women Painters of the American West, 1890---1945 and was instrumental in a Paris exhibition, Breaking Boundaries: American Women Artists in France, c. 1880---1930 [5]. Both of these shows included the art of Margaret Lefranc.  Ashman’s history with the arts in Santa Fe is extensive and notable. 

[1] https://folkartmarket.org/staff/stuart-ashman-chief-executive-officer/

[2] https://folkartmarket.org/16th-annual-internation-folk-art-market-santa-fe/

[3] Press Release from the Center for Contemporary Arts Santa Fe (www.ccasantafe.org)

[4] https://www.santafennewmexican.com/news/local_news/a-folksy-choice-to-lead-santa-fe-art-market/article

[5] Katz, Lois. A Lifetime of Imaging: The Art of Margaret Lefranc. Miami: Nouveau Ventures Unlimited, Inc., in association with the Margaret Lefranc Art Foundation, 2007. Pp. 10 & 15