UNM Law Professor Sherri Burr sees herself as ‘an artist in search of a medium.’ A successful photographer and painter, Burr is always looking at ways to bring her artistic creativity into her work preparing New Mexico’s next generation of lawyers. One way she’s done this is through her Art Law program.
“I’ve always been interested in protecting the legal rights of artists because I feel, as a community, artists aren’t the best paid, unless they really hit the jackpot. It’s nice to be able to have the opportunity to train lawyers who can protect the rights of artists.”
Beyond her interest in preparing the next generation of lawyers to defend the rights of artists, as the chair of the Law School Art Committee, she advocated for the School of Law to have its own art gallery.
“We’ve started an art gallery at the Law School, as well as an ‘Art in the Classroom’ initiative. Studies have shown that students who study in an art enriched environment do better on tests, they do better recalling knowledge, and processing that knowledge.
“By having a gallery we were able to purchase several dozen pieces of art, and we have been able to put art in every classroom in the law school. So we’ve truly turned the Law School into an art enriched school.”
When Burr and the Law School started the art gallery, she wasn’t sure what to expect. She didn’t know how popular the gallery would be, or who would share their art with their fellow Lobos.
“When we started the gallery four years ago. we put out a call to the staff at the Law School who might be interested in sharing their art, and we got responses from three people. We hosted their work and sold a couple of pieces. Then people started commenting on how much better the Law School Forum looked after we turned it into an art gallery.
“Since then, there’s been such a demand to show work. Our most recent call for artists for the ‘Faculty and Friends’ show included entries from someone from Mumbai, India.”
It could be that Burr’s work with the School of Law’s gallery, her own creative endeavors, and her desire to help New Mexico’s artistic community tapped into the heart of art’s influence in New Mexico, and at the University of New Mexico.
“Art speaks to us at a very deep, soul touching level. When we look at a particular painting, say Van Gogh’s Irises, there’s something about that scene that transports us, that calms us. I really think that stimulates the most creative parts of our brain. And New Mexico is such an art enriched environment. It’s hard not to be taken up into the art community when you live in New Mexico. The fact that the University is situated here makes art very much a part of its soul.”