The Centennial Museum's permanent exhibits focus on the natural and cultural history of the Chihuahuan Desert. Current and previous temporary exhibits cover a range of topics about the border region and the Americas, or present the work of UTEP faculty and staff.
Direct all artifact research inquiries to
Uncaged Art presents the work of youth, ages 13-17, who were detained at the Tornillo detention center in West Texas. Comprised of paintings, drawings, and handicrafts made of found materials, the work reflects the resiliency, talent, and creativity of young men and women who trekked 2,000 miles from their homes in Central America to reach the United States. Opened in June 2018, Tornillo was the largest detention center for children in the United States with 2,500 youth when it closed in January 2019. The art from the Tornillo detention camp provides us with a window into the personal world of migrant children whose visions and voices have often been left out of mainstream media accounts.
This exhibit will be on view from April 13th through December 14th, 2019.
"The Town and The Smelter"
ASARCO shaped the Borderland by creating high-paying jobs and becoming a regional economic engine. Yet, the smelter also brought horrendous workplace accidents, pollution, and toxic waste that poisoned the community. The smelting waste, or slag, literally transformed the landscape. In this ever-changing landscape, a company town was established, Smeltertown. By building schools,hospitals, stores, and churches, the residents and workers created their own distinct comunidad within the Borderland While pollution led to the destruction of most of the residential communities, the memories of the comunidad live on with former employe es and residents. The UTEP Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens is proud to present The Town and The Smelter. This exhibit will be on view from August 29, 2019 to January 25, 2020.
Traveling exhibits from the U.S. and Mexico
'JUNTOS' Exhibit Celebrates Regional Iconography
The Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens – a part of The University of Texas at El Paso – and the JUNTOS Art Association present the exhibit “Icons and Symbols of the Borderland,” an eclectic portrayal of the contemporary border landscape and its culture through the art works of 22 JUNTOS artists from Oct. 10, 2015, through Jan. 16, 2016. Familiar Icons that include Pancho Villa, La Virgen de Guadalupe, and Cabeza de Vaca and symbols such as jaguars and monarch butterflies synthesize and collide in an exhibition rooted in the personal and collective consciousness of border life.
“Ours is an age where visual representations are elemental to our daily communication and lifestyle,” said Diana Molina, artist and exhibit coordinator. “Symbols are keys to the stories of our human activity – they link the past and present, they ignite emotions, they represent our place within the contemporary U.S. / Mexican border terrain.”
The collection combines tradition, culture, history and nature in a variety of subjects and themes ranging from the religious and mythological to the commercial and socio-political uniquely depicted in paintings, photography, sculpture and collage.
"Time Exposures: Picturing A History Of Isleta Pueblo In The 19th Century"
The exhibit “Time Exposures: Picturing a History of Isleta Pueblo in the 19th Century,” organized by the Pueblo of Isleta tribe in New Mexico, tells the story of life on the Isleta Indian Reservation in the 19th century and its lasting effects on life today. Using many historic photographs and a variety of media, the story unfolds in three parts: First, the Pueblo people describe the year’s cycle as it was in the mid-19th century; second, the exhibit explores the arrival of Americans and how this disrupted their way of life; and, finally, the exhibit examines the historic photographs as products of Anglo culture.
"The Notebook of Nancy Lea"
Audiences know about the artist Tom Lea. Few, however, know of Nancy Lea, Tom’s first wife who died at a young age. Nancy was an aspiring writer with a strong point-of-view. Though none of her works were ever published, her writings continue to tell her story, more than 80 years after her death. “The Notebook of Nancy Lea” is Nancy’s story in her own words. The exhibit includes excerpts from Nancy’s journal as well as stunning photographs of Nancy and Tom.
Exhibit Highlights Borderland’s LGBTQ Community
Whether it’s the topic of same-sex marriage or gender identity, people across the country are talking about issues dealing with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual and queer (LGBTQ) community. This June, the Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens will present a new exhibit, “Engendering Community” that highlights the LGBTQ community of the El Paso/Juárez region.