Wednesday, April 28, 2010

See Downtown Las Cruces transformations

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — It’s spring — and a perfect time to take a stroll or visit a fiesta and celebrate Downtown transformations.
I started with a little amble around some of the Alameda Depot Neighborhood stops on the Las Cruces Symphony Guild’s Home Tour.
Since I knew most of the people and sites on the tour, I thought there would be no surprises.
I was wrong.
The first thing I encountered was a fascinating diorama inspired by Las Cruces in the 1950s, created by artistic souls in the Doña Ana Modular Railroad Club. You can read about them and admire their work in the Artists of the Week feature in this section today or go see for yourself at the Las Cruces Railroad Museum during next week’s 3rd annual Railroad Days from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Check out another new addition, too: a 1909 caboose which is almost the same vintage as the museum’s home, the old Santa Fe Depot which is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.
Though I’ve long been familiar was the distinctive interiors at Lundeen Inn of the Arts, the adjoining Casitas complex was a revelation. Creative casita owners have created masterfully decorated adobes that rival anything I’ve seen in my days in Santa Fe. Their courtyard gardens are artistic wonders, too. Look for more about their gardening inspirations, including some great ideas you can adapt for your own backyards and patios, in Saturday’s Mi Casa section.
If you missed the tour, or even if you didn’t, you might want to join the Alameda-Depot Historic Tour, part of the Branigan Cultural Center’s series of neighborhood walking tours, from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday. Meet at the Pioneer Park Gazebo, 500 W. Las Cruces Ave.
I took a long stroll along the Downtown Mall last week, starting at the mall’s south (Alameda) end and ending at the new Las Cruces City Hall and Branigan Library.
I chose a Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Market day (spring and summer hours are 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wednesday and Saturdays). I checked out that Pistache tree that we now understand is going to be saved when the mall renovations are complete. Our tree is in full spring green leaf and looking good, especially with a gaggle of happy kids doing some impromptu spring dances around its trunk.
I headed north through the blocks of vendors offering some tantalizing lunch, brunch and breakfast choices, along with arts, crafts, fresh baked goods and my must-have spring purchases: fresh tomatoes and asparagus, plus local honey. A teaspoon every now and then really does help with spring allergies, I’ve found.
From there I headed up the north block, which looks very naked to those of us used to the old arches, but still has plenty of attractions, from galleries and museums to COAS Bookstore, a quilt shop and two theaters.
I ended my stroll with a visit to the Branigan Library and the new Las Cruces City Hall, which almost overnight has spouted some nice landscaping — including small trees, flower beds and ground cover — to keep the relocated lion statues company. I couldn’t resist zipping up to the highest floors to check out the views. Yes, you can see the Organs, but the new multi-level parking garage dominates the panorama.
How about brightening up all that gray concrete with something colorful: maybe some murals like the one next door at the library, or some of Tony Pennock’s historical masterpieces? We might even recruit the Las Cruces CAPA (City of Artists Promotional Association) artists to come up with something. They’re the ones who festooned the city hall construction site with panels of art so striking and popular that several of them were swiped by unscrupulous art fans.
If we’re going to pave paradise and put up a parking lot, let’s do it with Las Cruces style and make the parking lot, like our regenerating Downtown, an artistic delight.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

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