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2021 Governor’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts Premiere Date Announced

Edward “Gus” Foster of Taos is one of the recipients of the 2021 Governor’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts

SANTA FE – New Mexico Arts (NMA) and the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs (NMDCA) are pleased to announce the official Premiere of the 2021 Governor’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts. On Saturday, November 20, 2021, at 7:00 p.m. the 2021 Awards can be watched on the New Mexico Arts and the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs Facebook pages. A direct link to the event will be available on or on the Facebook event at

In August, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the artists and major contributors to the arts who are receiving the 2021 Governor’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts. This year’s recipients are Edward “Gus” Foster, Ricardo Caté, Susan Contreras, Dave Grusin, Kathleen Wall, gallupARTS, and Spencer Theater for the Performing Arts. Since 1974, the Awards have celebrated the foundational role that artists, art, and supporters play in the state. The Awards are presented by the New Mexico Arts Commission and NMA, a division of the NMDCA.

“Artists didn’t stop last year, even when most everything we love was cancelled or postponed by the virus,” said Governor Lujan Grisham. “So many incredible artists rose to meet the moment, finding great inspiration in challenging times, tapping into a wellspring of creativity and resilience that reflects the best of us, reminding us that the darkest moments are often where we find what we’re made of and discover and re-discover what we are capable of as a people. I’m humbled every day to be governor of such an incredible state, filled with so many talented artists, whose commitment to their craft extends and elevates our state’s multi-generational legacy of artistic innovation and quality. To have the opportunity to celebrate the unique talents of these incredible artists and supporters of the arts is a joy – they represent the very best of the Land of Enchantment.” 

“Over the past 18 months, we have turned to arts and culture for entertainment, comfort, and understanding. As we move forward, creative workers, organizations, and those that support them are more important in building physical, emotional, and economic well-being of our communities,” stated Debra Garcia y Griego, Cabinet Secretary of the NMDCA. “It is an honor to recognize and celebrate the work of this year’s outstanding recipients.

The arts and culture sector in New Mexico normally contributes about $5.6 billion annually to the state’s economy. This industry enjoys a national reputation that is far beyond the state’s size or economic standing. Including persons employed in cultural tourism, art and cultural education, and industries linked to the unique culture and heritage of the state, the arts and cultural industry employs nearly 77,000 individuals, equal to nearly one in 10 jobs (9.8%) across the state. That is more than the state’s construction and manufacturing industries combined. 

2021 marks the 47th annual celebration of the Governor’s Arts Awards. A diverse and noteworthy list of painters, weavers, sculptors, dancers, musicians, storytellers, poets, actors, playwrights, and potters have been honored by the Governor’s Arts Awards. Past awardees include: Georgia O’Keeffe, Robert Redford, George R.R. Martin, Maria Martinez, Tony Abeyta, Glenna Goodacre, Tony Hillerman, N. Scott Momaday, Tammy Garcia, Lucy Lippard, and Catherine Oppenheimer.

About the recipients 


Edward “Gus” Foster — Taos 

Edward “Gus” Foster started his professional career in 1963 as an assistant curator in the prints and drawings department of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Within a brief period of five years, he rose to head curator and head of his department. Some of his early curatorial efforts were shows with such seminal artists as Ed Ruscha and Robert Rauschenberg.  

After the success of these early shows, Foster moved to Los Angeles in 1972. During his time in L.A., he became acquainted with many other prominent artists in that area, some of whom would relocate to the Taos area in the 1970s. By 1975, Gus too had moved to Taos, embarking on a photographic odyssey and sharing a studio with his friend Larry Bell (a leading artist in the Light and Space movement as well a Governor’s Award recipient).  

Foster traversed on foot documenting the landscape and vistas of this awe-inspiring country with his unusual panoramic camera, his profound ability to focus on things that others miss only became more pronounced. Over time, he began to take an interest in Taos’ Harwood Museum of Art and eventually donated private property he owned adjacent to the museum. He, his sister, and mother donated money to the museum for the establishment of the George Foster Jr. Gallery (in honor of his father).  

Later, Foster was elected to the governing board of the Harwood where he helped spearhead fundraising for building the new museum wing on the property he had donated. This expansion made it possible for the museum to gain accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums. This afforded new opportunities for  the Harwood to work with major art museums and collections. His association with the Harwood Museum led Foster to become involved with the University of New Mexico Foundation as a trustee. He also became a member of the museum’s Collections Committee and helped guide that collection into the contemporary age. As a result of his unusually discerning eye, Foster’s private collection included the work of artists working in New Mexico. He gradually expanded his collection to include Ken Price, Larry Bell, Ron Cooper, Kevin Cannon, Jim Wagner, Lee Mullican, Ron Davis, Robert Ellis, Bea Mandelman, and other artists working in a new era of New Mexican visual arts. 

After 35 years of amassing this collection, Foster donated the Gus Foster Collection to the Harwood in 2013. A compendium of 391 works of art by more than 80 artists became part of the permanent museum collection. This extremely benevolent gesture was celebrated with an opening show in 2014, featuring 121 pieces from the Gus Foster Collection. He continues to collect the working artists of New Mexico with the intention of eventually donating even more work to the museum. This sustained patronage has enabled many working artists to continue with their craft and to mature aesthetically in new directions.  

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