History of DCA | New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs

History of DCA

Wood Vendor Burros Loaded with Firewood Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe, New Mexico - ca 1912 Photo By: Jesse Nusbaum Negative #016731

Seeds for the present-day Department of Cultural Affairs were sown during the 1977 Legislative session when the Executive Reorganization Act was passed, establishing the Educational Finance and Cultural Affairs Department (Laws 1977, Chapter 246).

The purpose of this newly-formed department within the administration of Governor Jerry Apodaca was to bring the State's museums, historic monuments, library, arts and historic preservation programs under one collective umbrella. The far-reaching legislation combined seven agencies and programs into a single department with a common responsibility for providing cultural and educational services to the citizens of New Mexico.

The structure of the Educational Finance and Cultural Affairs Department consisted of five divisions together with an administratively-attached agency. The five divisions included the Public School Finance Division, formerly a division of the Department of Finance and Administration; the Museum Division, formerly the Museum of New Mexico, an independent agency; the Library Division, formerly the State Library, an independent agency; the Arts Division, formerly an independent agency known as the Arts Commission; and a new creation, the Administrative Services Division.

The historic preservation program, formerly administered by the State Planning Office, was housed in the Administrative Services Division of the department in order to encourage consideration of historic preservation concerns in the planning process for all divisions of the department. Included as subdivisions of the Museum Division were the International Space Hall of Fame in Alamogordo and the Old Lincoln County Courthouse. The department employed approximately 270 people with a budget of some $5.5 million.

In 1979 -- Chapter 205, Laws of 1979 -- the Legislature authorized the merger of the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) and the Educational Finance and Cultural Affairs Department upon the order of the Governor.

Cultural Affairs Rises

In 1980 the Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA) was created as its own agency, separated from Educational Finance, but administratively attached to the Department of Finance and Administration. The Laws of 1980, Chapter 55, defined the structure of OCA to include --- the Administrative Services Division, Museum (of New Mexico) Division, Natural History Museum Division, Arts Division, State Library Division, and International Space Hall of Fame Division (now the New Mexico Museum of Space History). The OCA was headed by the Cultural Affairs Officer, a position to be appointed by the governor and created to oversee all OCA divisions and operations. Until the spring of 1981, the officer had the dual responsibilities of serving as the administrator of the entire OCA and being the Museum Division director.

During April 2004, Governor Bill Richardson signed legislation elevating the Office of Cultural Affairs to Cabinet-level status and giving it the name "New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs."

Cultural Affairs Directors

The following individuals have served as Cultural Affairs Directors since the Department's creation in 1980:

  • George Ewing, 1980 - 1983
  • Jill Cooper, January 1983 - June 1985
  • Clara Apodaca, July 1985 - July 1987
  • Helmuth J. Naumer, July 1987 - July 1994
  • Adrian Bustamante, July 1994 - January 1995
  • Gary Morton, March 1995 - August 1996
  • John Garcia, August 1996 - May 1997
  • J. Edson Way, May 1997 - December 2002
  • Rubén A. Smith, January 2003 - August 2003
  • Stuart Ashman, August 2003 - December 2010
  • Veronica N. Gonzales, January 2011 - December 2018
  • Debra Garcia y Griego, January 2019 - Present