Friday, September 19, 2008

Marketing the arts in Las Cruces

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Welcome to Las Cruces: New Mexico’s Secret Cultural Mecca.
Las Cruces: The Un-Santa Fe. Easier. Warmer in the Winter. Bargain Paradise for Art Lovers. Our culture and chile are hotter and fresher.
Las Cruces: Fiesta Capital of the Universe.
Las Cruces and the Three As: Art, Academics, Agriculture.
Las Cruces and the Three Cs : Culture, Chiles, the Cosmos.
Las Cruces: Ground zero for art, literature, drama and history aficionados, home base for exotic day-trip adventures.
From Cloudcroft and Ruidoso to T or C, Deming, Columbus and Silver City, Las Cruces is the hub of southern New Mexico’s Band of Enchantment.
I may be a little rusty, but hey, I used to get big bucks for this in my advertising agency creative director days, summing up the merits of a person, place or thing in a logo…or 25 words or less.
I was pondering all this at the first session of the New Mexico Arts Convention. If you have ideas to share, there’s still time. Artists, art lovers and arts organizations are invited to drop in for the last session from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday Sept. 22 at New Mexico State University’s Corbett Center Student Union. For information, visit
The focus of the gathering is to market our region’s already considerable and rapidly burgeoning cultural resources.
I’m now in my 15th autumn covering the arts and entertainment scene here and I say, it’s about time we got our props.
I’ll remember 2008 as the year I took umbrage on behalf of Las Cruces. As delighted as I was to see Garrison Keillor and his Prairie Home Companion gang broadcast from Pan Am Center, it irked me that he ignored our local talent to import what many of us felt were lesser luminaries, as he characterized our territory as “a place where…you can drive your all-terrain vehicle around at high speed late at night, naked, drinking a beer and firing a shotgun…or maybe you just like to blow things up.”
I also sympathized when readers sent me articles in national publications which praised “quirky” and artistic Truth or Consequences and concluded that T or C citizens had become very creative about making their own fun because there is “nothing to do” in nearby Las Cruces, by implication a cultural wasteland.
Well, I love T or C and admire the town’s inventive spirit, but if they think there’s nothing going on here, they just aren’t getting out enough. T or C has a nice little group of galleries, artists, shops, big water, fun places to dine and stay and those fire dancers. But in the dance category alone, we have New Mexico’s oldest ballet company (Las Cruces Chamber Ballet), the new Pan American Dance Institute, the internationally-renowned Ballet Folklorica de la Tierra del Encanto, DanceSport, flamenco dancers, ballroom dancers, African drum and dance troops, beaucoups performers and classes in everything from Bollywood to square and salsa dancing.
We have hundreds of visual, performing and literary artists, many of them world class. We premiere several original plays here each year, including two that have gone on to Broadway by Mark Medoff, who won a Tony Award and was nominated for an Academy Award and is among those who are making Las Cruces a movie mecca, too. Filmmakers lured by incentives that range from exotic scenery and our new film school, Creative Media Institute at NMSU and DACC film tech training programs, have turned out dozens of films and TV projects in the last couple of years. Charlize Theron and Harrison Ford are among stars who’ve filmed here recently.
We have a remarkable number of theater companies and theaters devoted to performing arts and more in the works, burgeoning gallery districts in Mesilla, Downtown and the University area, art and cultural museums that mount increasingly sophisticated exhibitions focusing on luminaries that include Auguste Rodin, Salvador Dali and King Tut, plus museums devoted to natural history, railroads, farm and ranching, space, and history and archaeology. We have great singers and cutting-edge bands and musical groups.
The Las Cruces Symphony attracts national attention, internationally renowned performers and presents world premieres of commissioned works. Doc Severinsen chose Las Cruces for his farewell performance with our symphony and Mariachi Cobre, performing in a venue that has attracted big names ranging from Elton John and Janet Jackson to George Strait, B.B. King and Warped Tour pop and alternative stars.
I suspect we are home to more noted authors and poets than any city our size anywhere. And we might be able to claim status not only as chile capital but fiesta center of the planet: There’s RenFaire, International Mariachi, Border Book, Whole Enchilada, Rio Grande Powwow, Dia de Los Muertos, and a whole host of other regional fiestas that celebrate everything from arts and crafts to Borderland holidays, balloons, film, jazz, bluegrass, space and ducks.
But there’s no disputing that marketing Las Cruces as a cultural mecca is a challenge: How can we sum up all we have to offer in 25 words or less?
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at, (575) 541-5450.
Do you have a slogan to suggest? Let me know...

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