UTEP artists

UTEP alumini and artists Lupe Mendez, left and Celia Alvarez Muñoz. 

Two UTEP graduates have been named Texas State Artists and will serve one-year terms to represent the state’s artistic legacy.

Lupe Mendez will be the state’s poet laureate and Celia Álvarez Muñoz will be the state’s two-dimensional artist. They were nominated by a legislative-appointed committee based on the quality of their work and their commitment to the arts.

Their terms start May 18, 2022.

“UTEP is located in a vibrant border and trading community with a rich artistic heritage,” university President Heather Wilson said in a statement. “The selection of these two alumni is a point of pride for the University and the El Paso region.”

Mendez, a Galveston native who lives in Houston, earned his master’s in creative writing from UTEP in 2015. He is an educator who founded Tintero Projects, an organization that works with writers of color within the Texas Gulf Coast Region. 

Mendez has earned fellowships from CantoMundo, the Macondo Foundation and the Crescendo Literary/Poetry Foundations Emerging Poet Incubator. The Texas Institute of Letters awarded him the 2019 John A. Robertson Award for best first book of poetry for “Why I am Like Tequila.” 

“The appointment to this position means the world,” said Mendez, a well-published author. 

Álvarez Muñoz, a native El Pasoan who resides in Arlington, earned her bachelor’s in art from Texas Western College (now UTEP) in 1964 and her master’s in fine art from the University of North Texas in 1982.

“I am very happy to be in an amazing group of honorees from the State of Texas,” she said. 

She started as an illustrator, but later experimented with different media to include book art, sculpture, language, photographic media and installations-based work. She received the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award in Visual Arts from the Art League of Houston and has earned two National Endowment for the Arts grants.

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