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“The Tom Lea Institute was created to engender an appreciation of the art, character, and legacy of Tom Lea.  It is committed to educating students and the public about Tom Lea’s relevance to history, art, and literature.  Through  curricula, public programs, exhibits, and publications, the Institute shares Lea’s legacy in order to inspire present and future generations.”



A third-generation El Pasoan, Adair Margo grew up knowing Tom Lea’s Southwest and Pass of the North murals in the El Paso Public Library and Federal Courthouse. Her great-grandfather baptized Tom Lea in the Baptist Church when he was eight years old. She opened Adair Margo Gallery in El Paso in 1985, exhibiting over 400 artists from 12 countries, becoming especially devoted to Tom Lea. In 1995 she published the award-winning Tom Lea, An Oral History for the University of Texas at El Paso, and Lea asked if she might represent his work. She showed him until closing her gallery in 2010, founding the Tom Lea Institute the year before.

With an M.A. in Art History and Renaissance Art studies in Florence, Margo conceived a Tom Lea Trail based on the Piero della Francesca Trail she traveled in Italy. Correspondence from an Italian art historian, Luciano Cheles, inquiring whether Piero della Francesca influenced Tom Lea solidified the idea, which Texas Monthly and Texas Highways in 2013 announced. The Tom Lea Trail was later recognized through Texas legislation in 2017; a New Mexico memorial in 2018; and a Chihuahua, Mexico proclamation in 2020.

Adair Margo remains committed to Tom Lea through her speaking and writing. She has contributed to four books about him and written numerous articles.

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