The NMACAE is a diverse group of passionate arts professionals who want to ensure that all students in New Mexico have access to a rich arts education.
Daniel Fear – Chair
Daniel Fear is currently the Chair of the New Mexico Advisory Council on Arts Education. He represents the Council as the Fine Arts Coordinator for Farmington Municipal Schools and a representative of the Four Corners Area. He has served in music education for 21 years, 4 years of which have been as an administrator of all fine arts education.
Kurt Schmidt – Chair Elect
Kurt Schmidt has been an educator for 25 years, serving as a band director, fine arts instructional leader, assistant principal, and district-level administrator. He is currently the ExecutiveDirector of Fine Arts for Rio Rancho Public Schools, a 17,000-student district near Albuquerque, where he oversees all dance, drama, music, and visual arts programs K–12. Mr. Schmidt has been a member of the NMACAE since 2015, and is currently the past-Chair of the Council.
Paula Stein – Secretary
Paula Stein is a retired high school drama director. She worked with Albuquerque Public Schools for 30 years, directing over 200 different plays. Paula Joined NMACAE in 2000. She organized and ran the George Nason Drama Showcase Festival for Albuquerque area high school theatre students for 32 years. Currently Paula is on the Board of Directors of Albuquerque Little Theatre (ALT) as it’s President. She been on the ALT Board since 2008.
With over 10 years of experience in diplomacy, public policy, and government relations, Cris Balzano has built a reputation as an artful negotiator and top-notch government relations strategist. Recognized for his thoughtful and mature approach to solving complex issues; clients appreciate his composed and calm manner in the face of political adversity. Mr. Balzano, assists NMACAE with their lobbying and government relations efforts throughout the state of New Mexico
Emily Bennett has been an Elementary Visual Art educator for Las Cruces Public Schools since 2001. She maintains classes at two schools while serving on various committees at local and state levels. She highlights historical themes in her art lessons; such as Native American studies, and collaborations with the U.S. Forest Service and veterans’ organizations. She is currently working on a Master of Arts in American History. Prior to teaching, Emily was a graphic artist for McGraw-Hill Publishing.
Norlynn Blocker Price
Norlynn Blocker Price is the executive director of the Albuquerque Youth Symphony Program, a symphonic music education program serving 500 students in grades 4-12. Herself an AYSP alumna, Norlynn practiced law in Dallas for over thirty years before returning to Albuquerque in 2017. In Texas, Norlynn devoted countless volunteer hours to music education, including serving the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra in numerous capacities for over ten years.
Andrea Fellow Fineberg
Andrea Fellows Fineberg has been with Santa Fe Opera for over 30 years and Director of Community Engagement since 1993. She brings a deeply-rooted love and appreciation for the performing arts to her work as administrator, educator, producer, and librettist. As librettist she collaborated with John Kennedy on Trinity and Stephen Paulus on Shoes for the Santo Niño. In 2016, UnShakeable, with Joseph Illick, premiered in Santa Fe, and in the outpouring of activities for the commemoration of the Shakespeare 400, was cited by the New York Times. For Dayton Opera she has written original dialogue for The Magic Flute and The Abduction from the Seraglio. She is currently at work on a new opera, Finding Wright, with composer Laura Kaminsky for Dayton Opera. As a collaborative artist, Ms. Fineberg had the privilege of creating and then working with the Academy for the Love of Learning’s Lifesongs¸ writing original, musical narratives with individuals in hospice care, since its inception in 2007. In 2004 she received the City of Santa Fe Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and in 2018 the Max Coll and Catherine Joyce Coll Award for Distinction in Arts Education. For six years she served as a national commissioner to UNESCO and as a member of the Obama Arts Policy Committee in 2008 and 2012.
Debbie Fleming is a retired music educator and fine arts director.
Joseph Flores has been a music educator in New Mexico for over twenty years and currently serves as the K-12 Fine Arts Content Specialist for Las Cruces Public Schools where he oversees curriculum and activities for dance, music, theatre, and visual arts. Mr. Flores has been a member of the NMACAE since 2020 and is a Past President for the New Mexico Music Educators Association (NMMEA). He has been recognized as NMMEA Music Educator of the Year and has also received the Golden Apple Award.
Aurelia Gomez, Deputy Director at the Museum of International Folk Art, was originally hired to run its school program and facilitate hands-on components in exhibition spaces. The author of Crafts of Many Cultures (1992), she has written numerous K – 12 curricula and lesson plans based on MOIFA’s exhibitions. A past president of the New Mexico Art Education Association, Gomez received its 2012 Museum Education Art Educator of the Year award.
Santa Fe Public Schools Art Coordinator, Cristina González is an arts educator, arts administrator, and practicing artist whose work explores the intersection of identity with familial histories: imagined, mythic, and real. Her work resides in multiple public art collections including Carlsbad Museum of Art, NM Capitol Art Foundation, City of Santa Fe, and the National Hispanic Cultural Center, among others. Her 20+ year teaching career has been primarily at the college and HS level. Cristina received her B.A. from Yale and her M.F.A. from the University of Washington, Seattle. www.cristinagonzalez.com
Belinda Hardin, originally from Santa Fe, graduated from NMSU and later did her graduate work at ENMU. She is a 32-year employee for the Lovington Municipal Schools, having taught gifted and talented before becoming the Elementary Fine Arts Coordinator in 2003. As Coordinator, she has brought numerous programs for the arts to schools and the community. She helped develop after school music programs including, Elementary Honor Choir, the Wildcat Ringers, and guitar. Belinda enjoys mentoring classroom teachers who struggle with integrating the arts.
Tine Hayes teaches Fine Arts at Miyamura High School in Gallup New Mexico. In 22 years with Gallup McKinely co schools he has expanded the fine arts program to include graphic design and film making in addition to traditional fine arts classes. Hayes’ arts instruction focuses on the importance of creativity as a developable skill, and on finding meaningful post-secondary opportunities for artistically inclined students. Currently, Hayes is part of the High School Redesign Network working with the PED’s Priority School Bureau. Tine works closely with ‘Gallup Arts’ to create arts opportunities for students as well as providing adult art classes in the Gallup Community. In addition to teaching Hayes is also a practicing artist whose work focuses on the landscape and Human interaction with the natural world.
Steve Heil is a Gifted Education Specialist for Santa Fe Public Schools with a special interest in art talent development. He is President-elect of the New Mexico Art Education Association, and Arts Network Chair-elect of the National Association for Gifted Children. As a Gallup art teacher previously, Steve helped organize for arts education and advocacy, earned National Board Certification in Early/Middle Childhood Art, and was recognized in 2010 with a Golden Apple Award.
Michelle Lemons is a former APS art educator, former NM Art Education Association president, current UNM Art Education program adjunct lecturer, and current NM Scholastics Art Awards program Advocacy Chair. She is a past national Western Regional Elementary Division Director, and current national Elementary Division Director. She has received the NM Art Educator of the Year award and the National Elementary Art Educator of the Year award.
Gina Medina has been an Art educator for 30 years, serving students in the states of New Mexico and Oregon. She has had the fortune of developing and teaching art in Early Childhood and Primary grade levels, as well as Middle School and High School levels. Gina is currently an Adjunct Lecturer and Student-Teacher Supervisor at University of New Mexico.
She was selected as one of 22 Music and Art Teachers to the Albuquerque Itinerant Fine Arts Program at its inception in 1996. As a member of a new program, she collaborated with peers, administrators, school Principles from across the district and classroom teachers, to develop art schedules, art standards and strove to develop and deliver an art curriculum that was creative and dynamic. In this position, she was responsible for creating and presenting several art educational workshops to Classroom Teachers, Art Educators, parent groups and to several community councils, at the district, state and national levels. The APS Elementary program has grown to one with more than 400 art, music, theatre and dance teachers and staff. After teaching at the Elementary level for 20 years, she sought the opportunity to teach at the High School level for several years.
Gina was selected be a part of New Mexico Educator’s Research team to develop curriculum, along with other state teams throughout the country that taught themes about democracy, racism, and civil rights through the Japanese American internment experience.
Her life-long work as an art educator and a person who now helps prepares novice teachers for future roles, has been to provide rich, exploratory lessons where students can be introduced to new materials, language-building opportunities, varieties of multi-cultural histories, multi-cultural art forms and methods to help them better express themselves. Gina considers herself to be a life-long learner and one that looks for equitable opportunities to help connect students of New Mexico with as many quality, artistic experiences as possible.
Melissa Munoz has been a theatre arts teacher at Mayfield High School for the past 25 years and Picacho Middle School for 4 years. She is currently serving as a board member with Dona Ana Repertory Theatre and the New Mexico Educational Theatre Association. In addition to producing shows as her schools, she also has been a performer and designer for local theatre companies such as DART, Dona Ana Lyric Opera, Las Cruces Community Theatre, and No Strings Theatre Company. She earned her master’s degree in Theatre Production and Design from Southern Oregon University.
George Nicholson was born in Ridgewood, NJ, and grew up studying music in the Ridgewood public school system as well as at the Manhattan School of Music Preparatory program. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami, FL, and his master’s degree from the University of Georgia. Mr. Nicholson had the privilege of teaching orchestra in Cobb County, GA at the middle school and high school level to wonderful, passionate, and thoughtful students. During his time there, the program produced award-winning performances, became actively involved in the local community, and engaged in creative musical experiences. Outside of the school, George was a clinician and judge for Georgia Music Educators Association events as well as other organizations around the state.
In 2014, George moved to New York City to pursue his doctoral degree in music education at Teachers College at Columbia University where he is a Florence K. Geffen fellow under Dr. Randall E. Allsup. In addition to coursework, he supervises student teachers, mentors practicing music teachers, conducts the InterSchool Orchestras of New York, and is principal bass with the Queer Urban Orchestra. His research interests focus on socially-just teacher practices amidst the political landscape of contemporary schools. Past positions include posts at Ithaca College, CUNY Queens College, and The College of New Jersey. George is honored and thrilled to be part of the music department at the University of New Mexico as Assistant Professor of Music Education
Pueblo Indian artist Michelle Paisano has been working as a clay sculptor since 1984 specializing in fine American Indian art. Her clay sculptures, pottery, and clay vessels are a reflection of Pueblo Indian tradition and culture. Coming from the Laguna and Acoma Pueblos in southwestern New Mexico, her strengths and motivation as a clay sculptor are influenced by her long family line of Pueblo Indian potters. As an award-winning artist she has exhibited and displayed her artwork at the Smithsonian, National Museum of the American Indian, Denver Art Museum, SWAIA Indian Market, and many fine art galleries nationally and internationally.
Her background includes over 30 years working in Diversity, Equity, Equality, and Inclusion issues with the Equal Employment Opportunity Office (DOE), the Educational Equity Center (OCR), Desegregation Assistance Centers, and the Native American Rights Fund by disseminating information through topical publications, newsletters, brochures, website design/management, and federal legislation. Michelle received an MA in Art Education with PreK-12 licensure coursework from the University of New Mexico in May 2020. She presents the need for providing Multicultural Education and Culturally-Responsive teaching methods for all schools in New Mexico that lack Art Education programs in their curriculum. For additional information, check out her online portfolio.
Dr. Nancy Pauly
Dr. Nancy Pauly, UNM Art Education associate professor, prepares preservice and inservice art educators to teach in preK-12 schools, museums, and other community-based organizations. She is a member of UNM TECLA (Teacher Education Collaboration in Language Diversity and Arts Integration), which educates elementary education majors to teach all school subjects through all the arts while respecting all languages, cultures, and community-based knowledge. For 13 years, she taught art as the Hopkins, MN, District Elementary Art Consultant.
April Henderson Pickrell, Music Education Coordinator for Santa Fe Public Schools in New Mexico,
graduated from Dickinson High School in Dickinson, Texas. She earned her Bachelors (1998) and
Masters (2011) in Music Education at the University of Houston. April was presented the Lorraine
Goldman Golden Baton Award in 2017 and was honored nationally as “50 Directors Who Make A
Difference” in 2018.
While in New Mexico, she serves as a leader in music education by serving on the education boards for
Santa Fe Symphony and Performance Santa Fe, as well as past VP of Band in North Central District 4.
She also consulted for New Mexico Public Education Department on the state music assessments. April
presents to audiences of music educators, sharing her no-nonsense approach to developing bands of
April Pickrell passionately lives her beliefs, advocating for music education and emphatically voicing the
importance for every student to participate in music. In her spare time, April performs as a clarinetist and
travels with her husband, Greg.
Gina Rasinski has been an educator in the Albuquerque Public Schools for 28 years as a general music teacher, elementary general education teacher, a fine arts resource teacher and Performing Arts Manger. She is currently the Director of Fine Arts for APS which is one of the largest urban/suburban/rural schools districts in the nation serving over 80,000 students. Gina oversees funding, hiring, professional development, curriculum and supervision of over 400 fine arts teachers in all disciplines, a department staff of resource teachers and technicians, an on- site instrument repair shop and a team of Visual and Performing Arts Managers. Gina has been
a member of the NMACAE since 2015 and currently serves on the Finance Committee. She has developed and lead many Arts Integration workshops throughout her career for fine arts teachers, general/special education teachers, librarians and counselors. Gina currently serves
on the Executive Committees of three Kennedy Center partnerships/contracts with APS—Kennedy Center 2012, Any Given Child and Very Special Arts. She enjoys playing in small ensembles and performing for family and friends on the cello, guitar and marimba.
Renee Rubio Armentrout
Renee Rubio Armentrout was born and raised in El Paso, Tx. and draws inspiration from her cultural roots as a visual artist. Influenced by it’s natural beauty and the arts, she moved to New Mexico in 2005. Renee now teaches visual arts at Cuba High School, where she can share her creative influences with young developing minds. For the past five years she has been a member of the Fine Arts Advisory council for Cuba Independent School District, where her focus is Arts-Integrated Curriculum.
Summer Rickman is the high school theatre teacher and the Secondary Fine Arts Coordinator for Hobbs Municipal Schools in Hobbs, NM. She began her teaching career in 2007 as an English teacher for the district, but made her transition to the arts in 2009. Her passion for the arts began in 7th grade when she joined choir for the first time. Summer continued pursuing her passion for music through college, however, it wasn’t until after college that she realized her love for the stage and began participating in performances at her local community theatre. When the opportunity to teach theatre at her high school came up in 2009, Summer was thrilled to see her passion for the arts collide with her career and enthusiastically accepted the challenge. Since then she has built the program to include theatre classes for the middle schools, she stepped into the role of Fine Arts Department Head in 2011, and this last year, in 2020 began yet another exciting journey as the Secondary Fine Arts Coordinator for the district.
Denise Rudd is a Visual Arts Manager in the APS Fine Arts Department. She has worn many hats throughout 22 years in education – from an EA in high school to an itinerant art teacher, art resource teacher, administrator, and media specialist for the National Museum of Women in the Arts Summer Teacher Institute. She has held various roles within NAEA and NMAEA, from local Communications Director to Regional Director. Quality PD for teachers is her number one focus.
Dale Simpkins is a drama teacher at Hoover Middle school in Albuquerque. He has been a middle school drama teacher for 13 years, and directed hundreds of children in plays over those years. Dale is also a member of the APS Fine Arts Instructional Council. For six years Dale has lead arts integration summer workshops, helping elementary teachers integrate theatre into their daily lessons. In 2018, Dale was named a Golden Apple Teacher of Distinction.
Abie Smith has been an educator for 14 years and began her tenure as the administrator of the Roswell ISD Arts Connect Program in October of 2016. In 2015-2016 she received her administrative certification by being accepted into the National Institute of School Leaders program provided through a grant from PED and ENMU Portales. Mrs. Smith has a background in theater and music, and at various times throughout her teaching career she has taught grades first through fifth, including teaching overseas in Indonesia.
Kelly Stapp is a visual arts teacher at Gallup High School. She has been an educator for 14 years in Gallup, New Mexico. Ms. Stapp has a bachelor’s degree in Art and History along with a Master’s in Education. Ms. Stapp started as a regular classroom teacher and has been a visual arts teacher for the last 8 years. She has taught Preschool through high school and had various positions within the Gallup McKinley County School District and Hozho Charter School District including district/building test coordinator. Ms. Stapp has attended two Teacher Institutes with the National Gallery of Art and has been a presenter and attendee at New Mexico Art Education Association conferences in 2017, 2018 and 2019. These have helped bring different areas of curriculum into her art classroom.
Neil Swapp is the Executive Director of the New Mexico Music Educators Association. Prior to this appointment he taught music in New Mexico for twenty-eight years; four years as chair of the music department at New Mexico School for the Arts, seventeen as Director of Bands at Mayfield High School and seven years as Director of Bands at Cibola High School. Additionally, he is an adjunct faculty member at Western New Mexico University and co-founder and current president of the Southwest Music Academy.
A dual licensed K-12 educator in Central New Mexico for over 35 years, Debra Woodward received a Bachelor of Fine Arts and Masters degrees from the University of New Mexico. In 2008 the UNM College of Education awarded her a Distinguished Alumni Award. As a 2017-18 Teach Plus Alumni she advocated for culturally relevant instruction. During her 20 year career as an educator for the Belen Consolidated Schools, she was named the District Teacher of the Year. Debra is past president of the New Mexico Art Education Association, and early on advocated for the Fine Arts Education Act. In 2018 she received the Max and Catherine Coll Award of Distinction in Art Education from NMAEA. In 2019 she was selected to participate in the “Ask A Teacher” video series created by Future Focused Education. Debra also serves as an NMPED Teacher Leader Network State Ambassador.
Dr. Gigi Yu
Gigi is a UNM assistant professor in Art Education. She has 20+ years visual arts teaching experience with young children to adults in community settings, museums, higher education, and public- school classrooms in Arizona, Chicago, Wisconsin, and New Mexico. Gigi worked with the Albuquerque Art Museum, the Santa Fe Opera, the Albuquerque Public Schools Office of Early Childhood, and Chicago Artist Partners in Education providing pedagogical leadership and professional development facilitation, with an emphasis on early childhood art education. Currently, she is also editor for the publication Innovations in Early Education: The International Reggio Emilia Exchange.
Marit Andrews – PED Liaison
Marit Andrews is the Humanities Specialist for the New Mexico Public Education Department. Marit believes the humanities are an integral part of a well-rounded education and ensure education serves the whole child. She is thrilled to serve in a position that combines her passions of education and the arts. Marit has worked in public education for over a decade in various roles including as a teacher and policy analyst. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in several print and online publications including Red River Review, Illya’s Honey, Young American Poets, and Education Week. Marit holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a Master of Public Policy from the University of New Mexico.
Kevin Lenkner – NM Arts Liaison
Kevin Lenkner is the Coordinator for Poetry Out Loud and Arts in the Military programs and also serves as the Arts in Education liaison between New Mexico Arts and New Mexico Public Education Department. Additionally, he is part of the Grants administration team managing several Arts Learning funding categories.
Kevin comes to Santa Fe after serving as the Executive Director of the Mimbres Region Arts Council based in Silver City since 2015. He directed the long-running Blues Festival and initiated new events like the Southwest Print Fiesta and the Southwest Student Arts Competition. Prior to his move to New Mexico, Kevin was the Executive Director of YorkArts Center for 22 years. He has taught art education classes in various locations, including public housing, community centers, juvenile detention, and public schools.
Kevin holds a degree in Public Administration from York College of Pennsylvania and has done graduate work in Museum Studies and Humanities at Penn State University. Artistically, Kevin likes to explore the borders of sound and visual arts. He has had audio works featured in the Sound Pedro festival and installations in various galleries and exhibition spaces.