Thursday, April 24, 2008

The State of the Arts in Las Cruces

State of the Arts: This week begins a series profiling visual and performing arts and cultural organizations, trends and leaders that impact our community.


• Patio Art Gallery: Closing June 30
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, art classes Sundays and Mondays
Where: Hadley Centre, University Avenue at El Paseo
Info: 575-541-7401
Farewell reception: 1 to 4 p.m. May 31
• White Raven Studios: Closing June 1
When: Noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday
Where: 425 W. Griggs Ave.
Info: (575)525-9543,
Last shows: Eric McKinley, BFA show through May 2, MFA Graphic Design Show, May 10 through 17, opening artists’ reception 5 to 7 p.m. May 10

Recently opened
What: Unsettled Gallery and Studio
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, plus special events, artists’ receptions, workshops and classes
Where: 905 N. Mesquite St.
Info: (575) 635-2285

What: Preston Contemporary Art Center
When: Opening July 11
Where: 1755 Avenida de Mercado in Mesilla
What: New 9,000 sq. ft. facility includes three indoor galleries and an outdoor sculpture space.
Info: www.preston contemporary (575)523-8713

In the works:
• Proposed Las Cruces Arts & Cultural Affairs Commission: To generate funds, and promote and marketing “the Las Cruces Arts Scene” and cultural community. Information: Go to and click on Talking Stick Institute or e-mail
• Updated guide to Las Cruces galleries, museums, visual and performing arts: Las Cruces Convention & Visitors Bureau, 211 N. Water St. (575) 541-2444 The bureau currently produces print and online listings of arts and cultural events and attractions.
• Gallery/Artists Guide of Southern New Mexico, 40,000 circulation, 20-city, three-state distribution. Information : Jeanne Gehringer, (575) 644-1404,, Jud Wright, (575) 526-6101,
• New artists’ cooperative: Share studio space, marketing, joint buying of art supplies and discounted services, meet 6 p.m. May 15 at the Dresp Room of the Branigan Library, 200 E. Picacho Ave. Information: Trina Dunbar at (575) 680-8760.

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter

LAS CRUCES — It’s a time of transition for the arts in Las Cruces.Two prominent galleries, White Raven Studios on Griggs Avenue and Patio Art Gallery in the Hadley Center, are closing their doors after five years.
Other galleries are springing up, including the recently opened Unsettled Studios in a renovated Mesquite district adobe that rivals spaces on Santa Fe’s chic Canyon Road. In July, Preston Contemporary Art Center Art Galleries and Mesilla Digital Imaging Workshops will open a brand new a 9,000 square-foot space with three indoor galleries and an outdoor sculpture garden in the Mercado de la Mesilla.
Whether they’re closing or opening, artists and gallery owners seem to agree on some things: The art being created here and the artists moving in the region have never been better, but arts marketing strategies must change and expand if Las Cruces is to hold its own in an increasingly volatile economy.
New strategies in the works range from artists’ cooperatives and a slick guide similar to those offered in Santa Fe to a proposed new network organization, the Las Cruces Arts & Cultural Affairs Commission.
Founding Patio Art Gallery members Carolyn Bunch and Julie Ford Oliver sited personal reasons and a desire to devote more time to their own work for their closure, though participating artists were reportedly doing well with a combination of gallery sales and art classes.
At White Raven, it was a different story: “It’s pretty simple really; in five years we didn’t make money,” said Sherry Doil-Carter an artist and educator who owns the gallery with contemporary artist Sandy Zane.
In a strange twist reported by gallery owners here and throughout the state, high ticket art is doing better in the current recession than more moderately priced pieces that constitute most of our regional artists’ market.
“We actually did well with our Contemporary American Masters show last year,” which featured high-ticket works by world-renowned masters, said Doil-Carter.
Zane, who has just opened her second gallery in Santa Fe, Zane Bennett Contemporary Art, in the City Different’s trendy Railroad district, said that art buyers feel more conformable with “recognized” artists and art forms in uncertain times.
“In tough economic times, if people are buying contemporary art, they’re not buying it in Las Cruces. We’re actually doing quite well up here (in Santa Fe), nationally and internationally, especially on the Internet. Over the last five months, we’ve shipped art to Tokyo, Barcelona, London, Brussels and Dubai,” Zane said.
Doil-Carter thinks better times are coming here.
“I think the bubble is just starting to come to the surface. With the spaceport and other things coming here, we’re ready to be developed. But yes, I think this town can support art, but big changes have to be made. Downtown people who own property have to give some of it up, instead of just hanging on. We need some nice, intimate, after-hours restaurants where you can get a glass of wine and a little nosh after a play or an art opening. We need a collector’s guide and we need to work together and support each other,” Doil-Carter said.
A publication like the posh Collector’s Guide, distributed in Taos, Santa Fe and Albuquerque, has long been a dream of many Las Cruces artists and gallery owners, who point out that even much smaller communities like Truth or Consequences and Silver City have modest versions of their own.
The Las Cruces version is in the works, reports Jeanne Gehringer, who is working with Brian Mangas and Jud Wright of Del Valle Printing to produce the Gallery/Artists Guide of Southern New Mexico, a slick annual publication with a 40,000 circulation that will be distributed in 20 cities in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Northern Mexico. The guide will also have an online version. For information, contact Jud Wright at (575) 526-6101,
“Response has been good,” even in tough economic times, Gehringer said, and the first edition of the guide will be distributed in time for the Doña Ana Arts Council’s annual ArtsHop in September.
Several marketing and promotional groups have attempted to organize during the past decade, with a goal of publicizing both visual and performing arts, including music, dance, theater and literature as well as artists, galleries and museums.
Many of the city’s new and long-term visual art venues have been dual purpose, including from combined galleries and studio workshops and classes, artists’ cooperatives, and facilities that shared space with everything from restaurants, fitness centers, snack and coffee bars, to framing shops, souvenirs, books and clothing.
Larry Thoma dmoore 4/22/08 correct is currently working on a new cooperative that combines several concepts.
“We’re looking for about an 8,000-square-foot space where 20 to 40 artists would share studio space, along with joint marketing for the artists, joint buying of art supplies and discounted services on things like framing, printing and books,” Thoma said.
An organizational meeting is planned at 6 p.m. May 15 at the Dresp Room of the Branigan Library, 200 E. Picacho. For information, call Trina Dunbar at (575) 680-8760.
Amy Johnson Bassford, who will soon leave her five-year post as director of the Doña Ana County Arts Council, feels Las Cruces could be “on the “cusp of really going places. If the right things fall into place, I think that Las Cruces will become a cultural destination.”
She believes funding and cooperation are key.
“The biggest thing is funding. The arts and cultural community need more opportunities to sell their arts and more funding from private and public sources. And the more artists and groups that get together to promote the arts community and culture here, the better. All the cultural groups need to come up with a cultural plan that can then be implemented city- and countywide,” Johnson Bassford said.
The most recent, and perhaps most ambitious, effort was launched with an April 21 presentation to the Las Cruces City Council.
An ad-hoc group of artists, bolstered by an extensive research package prepared by New Mexico State University business management and economics professor David M. Boje and MBA student Rafaela Moschali, have proposed creation of the Las Cruces Arts & Cultural Affairs Commission, composed of regional arts organizations, galleries and museums, city, county and state governmental offices, the Mayor’s Office, the Las Cruces Visitor’s Bureau and Convention Center, area chambers of commerce, New Mexico State University, businesses and other community groups.
Boje stressed that other, smaller communities with fewer cultural attractions and resources have managed to establish themselves as arts meccas through cultural marketing strategies.
His proposed goals for “revitalizing the Las Cruces Arts scene” include:
• Develop sources of funding to purchase arts from southern New Mexico artists, and to promote the city of Las Cruces arts scene.
• Build a Las Cruces Arts & Cultural Affairs Commission to advise the City on investing in the arts, keeping a comprehensive artist’s directory, and an arts calendar.
• Foster live/work/retail space, studies, and arts facilities in available, vacant city properties.
• Establish “Las Cruces Arts Scene” as highly visible elements of the city and region’s identity.
• Recruit a Las Cruces entrepreneur to do package tours of the Las Cruces Arts Scene: Including bed and breakfast, gallery tours, visits with artists in their studios, meals in restaurants featuring art, see the art collection owned by the city.
“This is for all artists, not only 2-D and 3-D artists, but also performance art, literary arts, musicians, singers, dancers, drama, chefs, etc. The aim is to create an infrastructure promoting art, the artists in the area and thus promoting Las Cruces tourist-wise,” Boje said, adding that resulting economic benefits “could take us from the tens of millions to the half a billion dollar category.”
The group asked Mayor Ken Miyagishima and the Las Cruces City Council to appoint a “start-up commission task force.”
Miyagishima said he was impressed with Boje’s research and ideas.
“A cultural advisory commission has been among items on my ‘to do’ list and this fits the bill. I hope they will be able to get the arts organizations together, form committees of manageable size and come to the council with specifc proposals in the form of resolutions,” Miyagishima said.
For information on the Las Cruces Arts & Cultural Affairs Commission proposal, go to and click on Talking Stick Institute or e-mail

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

My take on the state of the arts

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES —The only constant is change.
It’s the end of an era...and the beginning of one.
I’ve been searching my brain for a quote to sum up the current state of the arts in Las Cruces. I considered that old reliable Dickensian “the best of times and worst of times,” but it doesn’t really fit, when talking about the arts scene in Las Cruces.
I think we’re in the best of times, going through some adjustments.
It certainly seemed like the end of an era in April, or at least the end of some sort of five-year-cycle. That’s how long Amy Johnson Bassford, who just announced her resignation, has headed the Doña Ana Arts Council. And White Raven Studios and Patio Art Gallery both announced they were closing after five years after featuring some of our region’s top artists and most innovative art exhibits.
But even those statistics are deceiving. Johnson Bassford has been active as a board member with the DAAC for much longer than five years and told me she has not ruled out further involvement in the cultural community.
White Raven’s founders also have deep roots in the community. Sherry Doil-Carter has taught in regional schools for 25 years and been an artist and a founding member of Border Artists here. Sandy Zane, her partner, is opening her second gallery in Santa Fe in May and plans to continue her tradition of introducing top Southern New Mexico artists to the City Different. Georjeanna Feltha, also a founder of White Raven, left some time ago to open the innovative Black Gold From the Sun Gallery in Mesilla’s Old Tortilla Factory.
I’ve seen Carolyn Bunch, the guiding force behind the Patio Art Gallery cooperative of talented artists, and her husband Henry build and/or renovate a couple of galleries in the time I’ve lived here. Their beautiful former Mesilla gallery now houses Charles, Inc.
The gallery scene has been changing and evolving everywhere I’ve lived. It’s all part of the natural progression of the state of the creative arts.
What sets Las Cruces apart from other places I’ve lived, is the kind of change. It seems for every gallery that closes, another one or two or three are likely to spin off and take shape.
In the last decade, there has been explosion in both the quality and quantity of artists and venues.
When I moved here in the mid-1990s, the downtown “cultural corridor” was pretty much the Branigan Cultural Center, the library, and the Las Cruces Community Theater... and one short-lived private gallery that quickly closed. Now we have the Black Box Theatre, the restored Rio Grande Theatre (which also has gallery spaces), the Las Cruces Art Museum, the Railroad Depot, and a growing group of eclectic galleries on Main Street and surrounding areas that feature everything from Russian masters and textile arts to cutting edge contemporary art.
In surrounding downtown areas, we’re about to lose White Raven, but we’ve gained Unsettled and IN EFFECT galleries.
Galleries come and go from Picacho Avenue to Hadley Center, but there always seems to be some solid activity.
Mesilla has seen a lot of changes, but recent additions, including several interesting small galleries at the Tortilla Factory and a new venue for the Mesilla Fine Arts Gallery, have kept things interesting.
The Mercado de la Mesilla has had its share of innovations and failures, but with LuLu and the Bistro and Meson de Mesilla’s jazz club in the ‘hood, now, and the new 9,000-square-foot Preston Contemporary art and workshop center opening up soon, it could be well on its way to becoming the artists’ colony envisioned by the late Ben Boldt and his grandson Jon. I loved their idea of mom ‘n pop art galleries, with artists living upstairs and having storefront art studio and exhibit spaces. I lived to see the last of that sort of Athenian ideal on Santa Fe’s Canyon Road and it isn’t too far-fetched to think it could be born again in areas of Las Cruces.
Another quiet development has been the number of world class artists who are living here, while exhibiting and selling most of their wares elsewhere.
They have come from New York and New England, Florida and California and Santa Fe, Mexico, Europe, Asia, New Zealand and South America. The world knows who they are, but many of their local neighbors and visiting tourists do not.
The truth is, we now have some world class stuff going on here in both the visual and performing arts.
And we need some world class marketing tools and campaigns to get the word out. That concept is nothing new, but there is a burgeoning critical mass right now of ideas that include a widely-distributed artist and gallery directory, more artists’ cooperative ventures and a proposal for a Las Cruces Arts & Cultural Affairs Commission put before the Las Cruces City Council April 21.
We could settle for a low-profile rep as the bedroom community for the planet’s leading art centers, concert halls and theater districts, the inspirational environment where the muse can be summoned without the angst that accompanies life in LA, NYC, Chicago and yes, Santa Fe.
Or maybe it’s time to spread the news that we have the art and the lifestyle — all at still relatively bargain prices — and find ways to attract enough art aficionados to help maintain and nurture new and established talents.
The magic Las Cruces mix of art, academia, agriculture and high-tech science is evolving and changing without doubt. It will take some careful planning and community support, but if can find creative ways to nestle artists’ studios and workshops in amidst the spaceports, museums and chile fields, we just might be able to maintain our querencia in the style to which we have become accustomed and share it with the world, too.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Celebrate books at Border Book Fest

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Let’s talk some more about books.
It’s the perfect weekend for it. The Border Book Festival ends today in Mesilla. If you haven’t gone yet, head out today for a multicultural fiesta that this year includes everything from a book mart to storytelling, readings, a parade for kids and pets and a free Saturday night concert starring Perla Batellla.
Libros y Más, the festival Trade show, featuring local, regional, national and international authors, presses and artists, runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on the Mesilla Plaza.
Other free festival events today include Lucha Libre wrestling exhibitions from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., clay work with Adalucía Quan, storytelling with Amy Costales, and an afternoon reading by writers Alex Espinoza, Don Usner, Adalucía Quan and Amy Costales with music by La Familia Vigil.
If space is still available, you could also drop in for A Conversation and Coffee, featuring photographer and writer Don Usner and photographer Daniel Zolinsky at 11 a.m. today. It’s $7. Internationally-known painter, printmaker and textile Sudeshna Sengupta will offer a Mandala painting workshop at 11:30 a.m. The $20 fee includes all supplies. For information, a complete artist roster list and biographies, an events schedule, visit online at or visit BBF headquarters at the Cultural Center de Mesilla, 2231-A Calle de Parian in Mesilla, just off the Mesilla Plaza, next to the Mesilla Post Office.
But books, of course, are the main attraction, and there are still lots of them, today at the festival, with a chance to meet their authors, too.
Last week, I confessed that I’m a lifelong book addict and pondered why my reading has been tapering off lately.
Last weekend, I got back into training, I cut down on the TiVo and focused on all the tantalizing books beckoning me from my new bedroom bookcases, including a mystery I’ve been looking forward to: “The Socorro Blast,” the latest Sacha Solomon mystery by Pari Noskin Taichert.
Sacha is one of the most entertaining and eccentric sleuths to emerge in the new millennium. She’s a public relations maven who travels to various New Mexico communities to investigate and promote the eclectic wonders of the Land of Enchantment. Pari, who lives in Albuquerque, manages to artfully combine insights that are likely to surprise even experienced travel writers and native New Mexicans, with a good murder mystery and some intriguing subplots involving very human characters, from Sacra’s dysfunctional family members and her best friend, a psychic named Darnda, to her colorful boyfriends. “Failed liaisons littered my life like spring pollen on a windy day,” Sasha laments poetically.
Pari’s books are beautifully-written love letters to New Mexico...and for me, reminders of why I love my adopted homeland...and mysteries and reading in general.
“Return” is a great choice of theme for this year’s BBF, and the concept reminded me to share that love with others.
Sometimes, it’s the tried and true that lures you back into reading marathons. Every so often, I pick up some old favorites: Miss Marple, Parker Pyne, Hercule Poirot, or anything by the delightful Agatha Christie. I’ve decided it’s time to present Madeleine L’Engle’s wonderful “Wrinkle in Time” series to grandson Alexander the Great, so I may have to re-read the boxed set for the umpteen time before I ship it off, or better yet, get him a set of his own.
I think I’ll also get some extra copies of some of my favorite reads of the past year or so.
Books can inspire, illuminate, change — and even save — lives.
Psychologist Martha Stout’s brilliant treatment of the most dangerous of predators, “The Sociopath Next Door,” could be a literal lifesaver. “A sociopath has no conscience, no ability to feel shame, guilt or remorse. Since 1 in 25 ordinary Americans is a sociopath, you almost certainly know one or more than one already,” she notes and explains how these charming and charismatic monsters and rise to run corporations and nations and ruthlessly ruin lives.
Colleague Phyllis Sorrell just loaned me her copy of Lucia St. Clair Robson’s “Ghost Warrior,” an engrossing work of fiction inspired by Lozen, the “Apache Joan of Arc,” a legendary shaman, healer and warrior who fought alongside Geronimo and Victorio. I’ve been fascinated by Lozen ever since I saw her picture in the Geronimo Springs Museum in Truth or Consequences and heard tales of her prophetic powers. Robson is a brilliant story teller and painted a vivid picture of Apache traditions and customs and the bitter struggle for survival during a clash of cultures in our part of the world. History buffs will doubtless find bones to pick, but sometimes there is a zeitgeist in a well-told story that can’t be beat.
Another recent discovery with local roots is “Taco Testimony” by our own award-winning author and BBF founder Denise Chávez. It’s a great gift for newcomer friends and for a much wider audience. I’ve found it resonates with anyone who grew up during a certain stage in the Baby Boomer generation with talented, eccentric and sometimes wounded but loving parents.
Share your own favorites or find some new ones. !Viva books!
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The future of books

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — In our family photograph albums and the minds of my siblings, I have always been the one with the book in my hands.
There are images of me sitting in a tree, reading; relaxing on the beach, reading; in a hammock, reading. There are shots of me reading on road trips (I never believed those old wives’ tales, that reading makes you carsick)...and even reading in conjunction with my favorite sport, swimming. There was a raft at my grandparents’ lake resort, and a time or two, I really did figure out a way to swim our there without getting my paperback novel du jour wet. Who says that reading is just a couch potato sport? I credit my splashless swimming skills (developed to a fine art while reading “Gone With the Wind” in lakes and rivers) with helping me get a spot on my high school synchronized swimming team.
When my big sister took a family psychology course and had to draw portraits of the whole tribe in characteristic poses, we all ended up in the family forest. Our little brother got a fishing pole and I think others got sports equipment, musical instruments, artists’ brushes, canoe paddles...
I got a book.
During my recent full-tilt spring housecleaning, I threw out a lot of stuff, but nothing in the book category. I did decided to lend small libraries in specific subject areas recently to good friends. I agree with Edgar Cayce that knowledge not used is sin (I have several shelves devoted to out-of-print Cayce tomes), and those books were just begging for an attentive audience.
Even, so I violated my new maxim not to bring any new storage items in until I’ve cleared out an equivalent amount of shelves or closet space. I bought two new bookcases and finally got all those review books off my bedroom floor and up where I could see them.
But with all of this, I’ve realized I’ve slowed down a lot from my usual rate of five to eight books per week. I’ve talked to other readers and found I am not alone.
Is it Baby Boomer ocular fatigue? I did manage to get through the last Harry Potter book in less than 24-hours, but that’s kind of a rarity, and frankly kind of disappointing for someone who used to be able to get through at least a 700-page book in one sitting.
I wonder if even dedicated old literary dogs are being taught new tricks — or ominously programmed into new reading habits and information assimilation techniques.
Just as I often have three or four story files and one or two search engines open at the same time on my office PC monitor, I routinely am simultaneously reading at least five to 10 books, magazines and newspapers, scattered about in various rooms and nightstands at home.
Sometimes, after a hard day at the office that may have included up to 100 e-mails and dozens of online searches, I find my will to read is pretty much gone.
The WTMI (Way Too Much Information) overload makes me sympathize with Slacker anthems.
“Here we are now, entertain us,” I sing, and crank up the TiVo. And I realize that TiVo, by eliminating irritating commercial breaks, has also cut into my reading time. I used to polish off at least a mystery, a novel or a biography or two each week during commercial breaks.
I’ve watched new generations, including my son and grandson, both enthusiastic readers, devote more time to games and DVDs of various kinds. I felt smugly superior until I contemplated buying a humongous Jane Austen anthology at the bookstore the other day.
Then I remembered I’ve been TiVoing the great PBS Masterpiece Theatre Jane Austen series. I thought about curling up with the big tome and decided to opt for another viewing of the Colin Firth-Jennifer Ehle interpretation of Miss Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.
I’d still rather read the original first before I see the movie versions. And I prefer rereadings to bad movie interpretations, but good dramatizations often win out over reading these days.
Am I a jaded canary in the literary cave, a sign that the book biz is in trouble? I’ve thought about it a lot, and I don’t think so.
There will be more DVDs and iPod downloads and recorded and electronic books for long trips. Forms might change, but humanity will always hunger for good stories, and need talented people to create and present them. And cuddling up with a good book is a pleasure not easily replaced, and likely to endure for generations to come.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Art community provides model for city growth

For models of the best ways to grow, look to the arts

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — With the growing pains and problems that come with rapid growth, it’s important to remember the perks that pop up, too, especially if we have creative role models to inspire us.
While making plans to entertain visitors recently, it hit me that we have lots of new stuff to show off these days.
A friend from New York who moved away only a year ago, thought I was making it up when I told her Las Cruces now has a jazz club, several wine tasting places and its own “tea district” (three places where you can get a cuppa within a few blocks: Victorian Tea Room, Funky Karma and Enchanted Gardens).
It seems like just a couple of years ago when I was longing for hot places to hear some cool jazz. And that’s because it WAS just a couple of years ago. Check out today’s SunLife feature to see how the jazz scene has exploded in recent years to include regular venues, festivals and even a jazz society and intimate jazz club.
Now I don’t have to wait for jazz fiestas to get my live jazz fix, or even juggle my schedule to catch jazz nights at Lorenzo’s or El Patio. Meson de Mesilla’s latest incarnation as a jazz-friendly site expands options in Mesilla. I celebrated my birthday this year at a yummy Sunday bunch at Meson de Mesilla, listening to the house band Smoke and Cali McCord singing “The Best Is Yet to Come.”
And some of the best is already here, or visited recently.
Who would have thought, a few years back, that Doc Severinson, billed as the world greatest trumpet player during his years with “The Tonight Show,” would chose Las Cruces as the site for his farewell concert with a symphony orchestra?
That decision was directly related to something that started the year I moved here: The Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference. The conference is now one of the world’s largest of its kind, and Doc is a friend of world-renowned Mariachi Cobre, who have been with us from the first conference in 1994. That connection led to Doc’s adios performance with Cobre and the Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra.
Las Cruces was culturally rich long before the population explosion of the last decade, with its own symphony, ballet and opera companies, deep roots in the visual and performing arts and enthusiastic audiences that attracted big names.
And the arts just keep getting better. Our eclectic music community produces stars in fields ranging from country, rock and Western Swing to salsa, folk, jazz, opera and classical music. We’re attracting national and international notice in the world of dance, from Jose Tena’s Ballet Folklorico de la Tierra del Encanto, to Debra Knapp’s award- winning NMSU dance groups. There’s a lot of community dance outreach, too, with the new Pan American Dance Institute and a growing number of dance academies and centers.
Our theater community is thriving, with new venues and world premieres of musicals and dramas, building on traditions started by the likes of Hershel Zohn and Tony Award-winning playwright Mark Medoff.
The Creative Media Institute at NMSU and the Film Tech Training Programs at Doña Ana Community College and around the state are helping to attract major movie productions here, including “The Transformers” and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” “The Burning Plain” brought over $7 million to the local economy and work for nearly 800 Las Crucens. We’re building a solid foundation for a new generation to realistically strive for status as Hollywood on the Rio Grande.
And speaking of the Rio Grande, we boast what is reportedly the oldest adobe theater in the state. The renovated Rio Grande Theatre is now hosting regular productions and has become the cornerstone of a showplace block on the Downtown Mall. New venues are in the works, like a $25 million, 80,000-square-foot convention center and a $75 million for the Center for the Arts at NMSU that will combine theater, music, dance, visual and performing arts.
The shabby old downtown area that was once described as “a graveyard of high hopes” is now well on its way to becoming a cultural corridor.
Las Sunday’s Alameda District Artist’s Studios Tours, the Downtown Ramble the first Friday of each month and the upcoming Symphony Guild Mesquite National Historic District Tour reveal that the city’s historic downtown community is nurturing galleries, theaters, historic restoration efforts and a quietly burgeoning artists’ colony. Four city museums are breaking attendance records and we’ve hosted major exhibitions focusing on King Tut, Salvador Dali and Ansel Adams, with an exhibit on world-renowned sculptor Auguste Rodin opening in May. In the works are a new museum in the 1866 Amador Hotel, a reopening of Mesilla’s Gadsden Museum, and a new exhibit space in the Mesilla Vistor’s Center opening April 24. Major clusters of art galleries and museums are growing at NMSU, downtown, Hadley Center and in Mesilla, where the new 9,000-square-foot Preston Contemporary Art Center is slated for a July opening.
It will take planning, judgment and wisdom to manage growth and hopefully maintain what we love most about life in our desert querencia. For models and inspiration, we might look to the arts community, which continues to demonstrate that growth can be cooperative, creative, artistic, enlightened and even entertaining.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

The dust aways wins....

Spring cleaning wars rage on, but the dust always wins

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — When you get to what Jane Fonda terms “the third act” of your life, I think priorities change for many of us.
The desire to accumulate stuff decreases as your stuff increases…and collects dust.
Recently, while trying to clear out a patch of closet for a guest, and eliminate some major dust-collectors, I realized just how much I’ve accumulated.
Nearly 14 years ago, I’d pruned my possessions down to fit in a modestly-sized U-Haul truck, including the basics in furnishings, kitchen and household supplies, clothing, and the really important stuff: enough books to stock a small town library and a respectable little art collection.
My first little one-bedroom apartment here was Zen and minimalist enough to generate echoes.
Now, after more pruning and four moves later, somehow, I’ve managed to fill a three bedroom house, two patios and a garage with stuff.
Lots and lots of stuff.
I remember my mom protesting endlessly to my dad that she could keep our house neat if only she had enough storage space.
I realize now, she had an excellent point. Our family home, exclusive of surrounding acreage, was probably not much bigger than my solo adobe abode, and it was filled not only with stuff, but with two adults, three kids, at least one dog and several ducks and occasional bunnies who always managed to spend at least part of their time as live-in amigos. And there were far fewer closets and cabinets than I have.
Now I’m starting to suspect that more storage containers, bigger bureaus and more bookcases are not the answer.
The answer is what my big sister Sally, a pioneer in so much new-generation family wisdom, called the boat survival principal. It was developed when she lived with her husband and their young daughter in an old yacht anchored off a Florida pier.
The boat survival principal was simple: for everything you bring on board, something of the same size must go ashore.
I started last week by throwing out lots of stuff and collecting and delivering many large bags of serviceable things to local charities. After successfully resisting the urge to snap up more stuff at surprisingly cute shops of local charitable organizations, it was time for phase 2: spring cleaning.
Though I’ve long advocated a let-it-be policy when it comes to coping with desert dustiness (I encourage everybody to think of it as the artistic — and inevitable— patina of our daily lives), there comes a time when you realize that some action must be taken.
In my case, that time usually comes at the height of allergy season, unfortunately coinciding this year with the period when the Doña Anas are at their peak of full-tilt windy bluster.
After all these years, I’m still surprised at all the places our ubiquitous dust can settle in. I expect to do hard time on all my open bookcases, a price I almost willingly pay for enjoying the sight of my favorite books every day. After all, I know I will find dust even inside of my snugly enclosed kitchen cabinets, lingering on dishes, cups and glasses.
I’ve even come to accept that there will be dust on all the fans and vents, though it still seems to defy logic. Shouldn’t a fan blow everything away, after all, especially ephemeral stuff like dust?
But this is fine, grimy and even greasy dust, and like everything that persists in the desert, it’s very tenacious.
I climbed to dust high shelves and knick-knacks, including an entire platoon of kachinas, with masks and feathers and intricately-carved wooden crevices, all gathering bumper crops of dust. I rearranged framed pictures and discovered their back surfaces collecting sneezy clouds that rival the dust bunnies under beds and couches. Wooden furniture and the piano were rubbed down and emerged lovely and lemon scented.
Rugs were shaken and washed and still yielded a rich drier lint trap harvest. After vacuuming, I sneezed and relaxed for a moment, savoring gleaming, dust-free surfaces.
Then the March winds began again, and I watched the fine, gritty mist streaming in, even around my best-insulated and weather-stripped doors and windows.
There will be spring cleaning respites and an oasis or two after thunderstorms and monsoon season, but I am a creature of the desert now and I have no illusions. In this material world of ashes to ashes and dust to dust, and especially in the land where weather forecasts are often “mostly dusty,” we humans may prevail in a spring cleaning battle or two. But in the great housekeeping wars, I know the dust will always win.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at