Friday, May 23, 2014

Young artists blaze new trails

I’ve heard a lot of fretting about the graying of the Las Cruces arts community.
It’s true that we have a lot of dynamic artists who continue to be productive and innovative in their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s, but I don’t think we have to worry about new generations carrying the torch.
I thought about that when Cheech Marin was talking to students from Alma d’arte Charter High School before the opening of “Chicanitas,” a collection of paintings from the celebrity’s private collection of emerging Latino artists, running through July 19 at the Las Cruces Museum of Art.
“You are the face of change. You are the mainstream. This is a little guerilla army of art. Shows like this are about getting yourselves and everyone else used to the idea,” Marin told the students.
And I think that applies to more than any particular ethnic groups or Borderland cultures, though celebration of diversity is a big part of what distinguishes the arts in New Mexico. Santa Fe became one of the top three arts markets in the United States, I’d say, by nurturing inspiration and growth springing from fecund tricultural roots.
Las Cruces could be poised to take that a step further, based on the efforts of Mesilleros and native Las Cruces artists who chose to stay here or return, joining newcomers who are committed to nurturing and encouraging new generations of artists. And the commitment extends beyond the visual arts, to theater, film, multimedia enterprises, dance, vocal and instrumental music, fiestas and special events (like the international Mariachi conference which has trained and inspired thousands of singers, songwriters, dancers and musicians) and artistic business owners.
I could fill several columns with lists of individuals and groups who have gone to extraordinary lengths to provide opportunities for young and emerging artists and support and promote their creative efforts: Mark and Stephanie Medoff, J. Paul Taylor, Irene Oliver Lewis, Heather Pollard, Marianna Gabbi, Lonnie Klein, Jerry Ann Alt, Glenn and Sally Cutter, Carolyn and Henry Bunch, Kevin and Michele Self, the Border Artists, the Doña Ana Arts Council, the Las Cruces Arts Association, No Strings Theatre Company, Mikey’s Place, Creative Media Institute and the Las Cruces Community Theatre, just to name a few, along with legions of supportive teachers, parents, friends and patrons who encouraged artistic inclinations during tough economic times.
And in recent years, I’ve encountered some inventive young entrepreneurs who have established multipurpose, art-infused cabarets and restaurants (think Boba Café), artists’ cooperatives like West End Art Depot and free-wheeling shows, like Rokoko Gallery’s imaginatively themed exhibits that welcome young and emerging artists.
Some are finding imaginative ways to make a living and make art on their own terms, promoting art exhibits and music venues at sites that also offer everything from coffee and pastries to haircuts and tattoos.
And some brave and creative young souls are starting their own galleries and online arts enterprises.
Read about Derek Roberts, whose Art Obscura Gallery offers cutting-edge art, along with antiques and collectibles, in today’s SunLife section.
Like Roberts, Luke Navarro wanted to find a way to do his own art and also provide a venue for other artists. He opened The Trunk, an eclectic art gallery and toy emporium, at 1690 S. Valley Drive, near the World Gym. To get the word out, he used social media and projected sci-fi movies on the outside of his out-of-the-way white building.
“On opening night, we were blown away by the amount of people who came. We counted 311 people, shoulder to shoulder,” Navarro said.
He’s part of a growing trend. Artistic passions are the mothers of many inventions here for young artists who want to live in Las Cruces and still pursue their artistic careers.
Jamila Hull creates sensitive portraits, which she offers online at, and at her booth at the Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Market.
Her motto could be a credo for a generation of innovative young artists: “If you can get away with doing what you love, do it, and if not, do it anyway,” said Hull, who has studied art in Italy and interned at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., but feels she’s found her dream job in her own home town.
“I produce everything and do all my own marketing. It’s hard to predict or figure out what is going to work. I get people of all ages, and a lot of people from the Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Market. The market is incredible. I feel so blessed with the sense of community there. It’s so funky and eclectic: the best way to spend Saturday,” Hull told me.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at @derricksonmorre on Twitter or Tout or call 575-541-5450.

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