Savoie said that the University and IMAS are bound together in that they are both institutions supporting the need for an education based community. He said IMAS and UTPA have several cooperative partnerships including an ongoing relationship with the UTPA GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs).
“We work hand in hand with the GEAR UP director Dr. Reyes and where there is a need we meet that need,” Savoie said.
|Lewis P. Savoie, executive director of the International Museum of Art and Science in McAllen, was welcomed at a recent IMAS board meeting held in the Student Union at The University of Texas-Pan American.|
“How much better can we prepare our kids than exposing them to IMAS and their mission, which is similar to ours – to provide exposure to and education about the arts and sciences,” Migoni said.
In addition to sponsoring two UTPA interns and hiring numerous UTPA students as part-time employees, Savoie said he is seeking additional collaborative projects with the UTPA faculty.
“We are going to start having two or three UTPA art classes per semester take part in exhibit planning and execution – the assembling and dismantling of an exhibit. Most of these students would never have that opportunity to be exposed to the inside or guts of a museum,” Savoie said.
He also hopes to involve UTPA faculty in helping to provide ongoing education courses and curriculum related to the IMAS planetarium to be completed in another year and a half.
Dr. John Edwards, vice president for Enrollment and Student Services at UTPA and an IMAS board member, said he was excited to see the positive changes and improvements made by Savoie at the museum.
“We share a vision that more Valley young people need to be encouraged toward higher education; the University and Museum are already ‘partnering’ on this shared vision through the IMAS-UTPA GEAR UP partnership and providing work-study and intern positions to the museum, where our students receive valuable training and experience,” Edwards said.
IMAS, formerly the McAllen International Museum, is the only accredited art and science museum serving the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Founded in 1969, it is accredited by the American Association of Museums and is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution of Washington, D.C. Serving approximately 40,000 children and 80,000 visitors annually, IMAS offers 12 to 18 art and science exhibits each year and has one of the nation’s largest collections of Latin American folk art and one of the only geological and paleontology collections in South Texas.
Heading IMAS for only the past eight months, Savoie was former executive director for the Historical Donaldsonville Museum/Ascension Heritage Association in Donaldson, Louisiana. He has undergraduate degrees in marketing from the University of Mississippi and in cultural resources from Southeastern Louisiana University as well as a master’s in cultural resource management and museology from SLU.
Savoie has a great love for learning. “My father said he’d pay for any schooling I took that included six credit hours or more, so I went to college for over 20 years and have numerous associate degrees as well,” Savoie explained. He also has graduate coursework in art history, archaeology, cultural anthropology, oral history, administration for non-profit organizations and historic preservation.
Savoie said that he has found the Rio Grande Valley community similar to the area he left in Louisiana, which included many Cajuns and los Isleños, Spanish descendants from the Canary Islands.
“They are passionate about celebrations, close to family, very emotional – they dance, they cry and are fun-loving – and have remained in a certain geographical area,” Savoie said.
However, whereas Louisiana had cut funding for the arts by 57 percent, he has found much greater financial support for the arts in Texas, especially for educational courses and programs provided to serve larger groups of people. Savoie said he has received overwhelming support from the community. The primary hurdle he has had is trying to accommodate the mass need of the community.
“You have to educate the two-year-old but also entertain the 40-year-old and older. To balance those things and create programs that both can enjoy has been a great challenge,” Savoie said.
Short term goals for IMAS include the mid-December opening of the Discovery Pavilion – a 6,000 square foot area featuring bilingual, state-of-the-art interactive art and science exhibits focusing on the themes of creativity, communications and community. UTPA was involved in the development of the Discovery Pavilion from academic department participation in the creation of its exhibits to more than 100 UTPA volunteers participating in the Community “Big Build” last year. Soon after the Pavilion opening, plans for the new planetarium will be announced.
Among Savoie’s long term goals for the museum are to continue to listen to the needs of the community and to insure that public transportation is made available to the Museum, so it can be accessible to all children wanting to attend.
“UTPA and IMAS share the goals of education and community service and we will continue to discuss other ways to amplify our combined efforts to encourage and serve our Valley young people,” Edwards said.