The Roswell Museum and Art Center was founded in 1935 through an agreement between the City of Roswell, Works Progress Administration (WPA), Federal Art Project (FAP), Chaves County Archaeological and Historical Society, and the Roswell Friends of Art. The Museum opened in 1937, deriving its initial support from the WPA as part of a Depression era project to promote public art centers nationwide. Today, the Roswell Museum and Art Center is among a handful of these Federal Art Centers that remain in operation. In its proposed plan, the WPA established that “the root of the community art center idea is participation by the entire community in all forms of art experience…” The stated purpose of the Museum was “to serve the art needs of Roswell [through] continuously changing exhibitions in the fine and practical arts, lectures and gallery talks [music programs and an art school where classes were offered free to the public].
From the outset, the Roswell Museum and Art Center established itself as a cultural and educational locus for the community. When the WPA restructured in 1941, the City of Roswell assumed control of the Museum. Since its initial emergence, the Roswell Museum and Art Center has grown into a 50,000 square foot facility that includes twelve galleries dedicated to the exhibition of art and history, and the Patricia Lubben Bassett Art Education Center. The Museum is accredited by the American Association of Museums and is southern New Mexico’s preeminent museum, lauded for the quality of its exhibitions, programs, and collections.