Irene Oliver Lewis
When asked why she is involved with New Mexico State University as an alumna, Irene Oliver Lewis responded, “I owe my professional, cultural, and personal growth to my time at NMSU.” Irene is a three-time Aggie, earning her Associates in 1974, Bachelor of Individualized Studies in 1975 and Master of Arts in 1978. Upon receiving her first degree, she was hired to create the first media campaign for DACC’s bond issue. She has remained committed to the university by serving on the KRWG Patron Board, Art Department Council, and as a loyal donor.
Irene has a passion for the arts and wanted a career that allowed her to share her passion with others, especially children.
Throughout the 1970s, she participated in numerous theater productions throughout New Mexico and the U.S. with Isabel Crouch’s Readers Theatre group, NMSU Theatre Department, and the Las Cruces Community Theatre (LCCT). People still remember her performance at LCCT as Angel in When You Comin’ Back Red Ryder. In 1981 her career took her to Albuquerque, where she became the first cultural coordinator for Albuquerque Public Schools and created multicultural activities for children, youth, and teachers. In 1988, she founded ALMA Productions, a consulting company specializing in theatrical and film productions and arts in education. Irene had a nine-year career with La Compania de Teatro de Albuquerque as a director, producer, actor, and artistic director.
Under her leadership, the company toured throughout New Mexico and the United States, and received an invitation to be featured at Joseph Papp’s Festival Latino in New York City and the Edinburgh International Festival in Scotland. La Compania was recognized as one of 11 Latino theatre companies creating innovative and original theatrical pieces funded by the Ford Foundation. Irene played a significant role in starting the award-winning Longfellow Elementary School, the state’s first arts based Spanish language elementary school.
Irene is a true leader in furthering the significance of the arts. While a theatre artist in residence in the Hatch Schools, she created arts projects for K-12 students and developed the summer programs to include arts education for bilingual students. In addition, she help start the Albuquerque Arts Alliance and assisted in the growth of the Fiesta Artistica (Arts Festival) that became the contemporary section of the annual Hispanic Arts Market in Santa Fe. In 1995, Irene came home to Las Cruces as the artistic producer and founder of the Court Youth Center, an artsbased youth program, and then started Alma d’arte Charter Arts High School in 2004. Even though Irene says she is retired, she is busier than ever. Currently, she is assisting with the development of a film industry in southern New Mexico with NMSU’s Creative Media Institute, the Doña Ana Community College, and NMSU’s Arrowhead Center. She is also working on creating an Arts and Culture District with the City of Las Cruces.