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Museum director’s artistry felt throughout Roswell

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Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

By Amy Lignor
Special to the Daily Record

Born in the Midwest, Nancy Fleming learned to crochet, embroider and copy greeting cards. She was artistic, yet never dreamed of a career in the arts.

Nancy Fleming, director of Anderson Museum. (Amy Lignor Photo)

Besides, it was widely believed that by mastering secretarial skills, you would land a solid career, which is exactly what she did. But it didn’t take her long to see that could not sustain her.

“The first day on the job, I realized I couldn’t be an assistant for the rest of my life,” Fleming said. “I knew there was something more,” which began her first transition. While working full-time, she attended night school and took painting and drawing classes.

About two and a half years later, while working for a construction company, a new door opened for Fleming to walk through. Beginning at the Kansas City Art Institute on her 21st birthday, she dove into her future.

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“Even though I had enough credits to graduate early, I loved art school so much, I refused to leave. In addition, I met my husband Stephen there. Stephen had been a part of the Roswell Artist-in-Residence program (RAiR) back in the ‘80s, and at just the right time, in the early ‘90s, there was an opening in the program, so we moved here.

“He eventually took over the directorship of the program; his job was to make sure the artists were able to do their work with no distractions, keep the grounds nice, etc. So when we arrived, I embarked on my own new tangent and became a reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.”

Although she had no journalism experience, Nancy loved meeting people and having them tell her their stories.

“It was a great way to become part of this community,” she said.

They welcomed their daughter, Sienna, in October 1994, and as her child grew, Fleming loved living here even more. She raves about Roswell because of all the artistic arenas there are for kids.

“Sienna was into dance, piano, so many things, and I loved participating in every one of them,” Fleming said.

Becoming interim director of the RAiR program when her husband went back to Kansas City to teach, she not only spent more time with the artists, but took on various roles and challenges as a mom and artist. By creating 18 years of costumes for Sienna to wear at the UFO Festival costume contest, she became a master of “alien” fashion.

Sidney Gutierrez Middle School was yet another addition to her palette.

“In true ‘me’ fashion, I was asked if I wanted to be the art teacher at the middle school and I just couldn’t say no,” Fleming said. “I love challenges.” Starting with one class, she soon was teaching grades six through eight. Taking part in the Eastern New Mexico State Fair every year, her students did work that garnered their school some well-deserved trophies.

Working with everything from tiles to mosaics to utilizing recycled materials in order to create floats and costumes, her students were even responsible for creating the collage panels that can be seen on the Roswell Independent School District Creative Learning Center.

Earning her teaching degree while working at the school, Fleming continued exploring a variety of art mediums. Because of her own passion for collecting, she created some amazing pieces. Among them are origami birds, decorative spheres called “Wall Balls” made from things like zip ties and hardware, quilt collages, a cool chair made from 24,000 paper clips, as well as a sequined horse for the “Trail of Painted Ponies” project. Utilizing 77,000 sequins, Fleming created “Sequential: A Sequine,” sponsored by Miss Minnie’s in Roswell.

Her tour de force came in 2001 as an ArtPrize participant. This international art competition has the artist secure a venue where they can show their pieces. Being a collector of thrift store handicrafts, Nancy paired with Goodwill. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, at that time, in the window one could see her living room creation, which included a couch made from recycled products, a folding screen of Kleenex boxes and needlework pieces.

Her ultimate goal? “I eventually want to make a ‘crazy old lady house’ room by room, using all different kinds of materials to bring to life a game room, a ballroom and more.”

When it comes to the Anderson Museum, Nancy is now full-time director and her tasks involve wearing a great many hats. One of her favorite challenges is to design the invitations for the RAiR dinners that are put on after an artist’s show at the Roswell museum. Utilizing the artist’s work, she mastered programs like Photoshop and Illustrator to create the most memorable invites possible.

It was only five years ago that another art technique was brought to the community; the introduction of “miniatures” to both residents and tourists.

“Elaine Howe and I were given two miniature houses: a saloon and a representation of Santa’s Workshop. In need of help, we fixed them up and displayed them in the windows of the New Mexico Energy Library on Main Street. We began to see the miniature ‘craze’ that was growing across the country, and that’s how the Miniatures and Curious Collections Museum came into being. …”

The museum, on Richardson Avenue, is split into four sections: a children’s play area, a miniatures section, the curious collections area, and the gift shop, which is growing by the day.

“It’s a magical place where both tourists and the community can come and have a ball,” she said.

Looking back, Nancy wanted to thank Don and Sally Anderson for their generosity.

“It’s because of them that we’re even here. I’ve been able to reach goals, use my potential, and develop my skills because of them. From the museum to the RAiR program, I’ve been able to live amongst incredible artists for 25 years, and I don’t take any of it for granted.”

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