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


David Boje said...

Thank you S. Derrickson Moore for posting information on what Talking Stick Institute is doing to market Las Cruces Arts & Culture Scene. Since your report we have put up a website listing an artist registry, galleries, museums, and arts service organizations. There is also an example of a monthly and annual Calendar of events. We are hoping that the Las Cruces Convention Center and Visitor's Bureau will pick up the sites and sustain them with their webmaster. This way there will be a place to find out what is going on. has the link for our temporary site.

If anyone has info to make the site more accurate, such as hours of operation of galleries, styles of art of local artists, etc, please contact me.

Thanks again for providing a forum to talk about the arts and culture economy of Las Cruces.
-- David M Boje

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