The Fine Arts Department, previously housed in Cotton Memorial, was a small department with little room to expand. El Paso students interested in the fine arts often left the area to pursue the degree at another university. When the College of Liberal Arts broke ground in December 1971 on the projected $7 million Fine Arts Center, it was hoped that the facility would enable the fine arts departments of Music, Drama, and Art to expand to meet the demand for Fine Arts degrees. It was projected that the 190,000 square-foot facility would be completed by January 1974, but due to delays caused by construction worker strikes and construction problems the building was not complete until April of 1974 and officially opened to the public in October 1974. The Building was officially named The Fine Arts Complex; it was a complex because it is actually three buildings connected by hallways and walkways. The final cost of the building was $6,452,482 and The Prospector called it the “biggest, most modern building on campus.”
The Complex contains soundproof practice rooms, band rehearsal rooms, the William and Mary Wise Family Theatre, and space for art studios. There are few classrooms because the facility was constructed to teach students while actually practicing their art form. The building does not have a designated front or back as it is open on both sides with a garden in the center. The complex is connected to the Magoffin Auditorium. The building was built with battered walls in order to exemplify the Bhutanese architectural style for which UTEP is known.In September 1978 the building was renamed the Josephine Clardy Fox Fine Arts Center and is most commonly called Fox Fine Arts. The namesake, Josephine Clardy Fox left a contribution to the university upon her death, of approximately $3 million in cash, jewels, art, and real estate. Mrs. Fox became an El Pasoan after her husband, Eugene Fox, an executive of the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad, was stationed in El Paso. The couple made El Paso their home and lived here for the remainder of their lives. Mrs. Fox was a well-known supporter of local art and artisans, therefor; naming the Arts Center after her was perhaps the best way to honor her for her support of the University.
[Sources: Nova, September 1978; The Prospector, 12/2/1971, 12/14/1971, 10/12/1972, 1/18/1973, 9/13/1973, 10/2/1973, and 12/13/1973.]
Ashley Swarthout was a student in the Masters of Arts in Teaching English program at UTEP. She graduated in May 2013 and is now teaches dual credit at Chapin High School.