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Dec 20

Collateral Benefits

Posted on December 20, 2022 at 1:23 PM by Ceci Vasconcellos

It’s one thing to acquire new public art for the city, which is always fun; it’s another thing to take care of that new art so it last for years to come. Maintenance is factored into every art acquisition we make, including public art acquired years ago. However, funding for maintenance is not currently a dedicated allocation in the annual budget, therefore, we rely on other methods to get it done. 

Fortunately, the City’s Parks and Recreation Department provides some of the maintenance on pieces located in City parks, and sometimes incorporates additional art maintenance projects into its other programming such as Keep Las Cruces Beautiful (KLCB). This year, KLCB applied for and was awarded a New Mexico Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) grant for a project called “Empowering Youth through Art Cultivation & Community Forestry”. The six-month long grant project “aims to engage 15 youth between the ages of 14 and 25 in the beautification of their community through the cultivation of art and nature.” 

YCC Team pose in entrance of Trivez Trail Tunnel

YCC mural project crew working on Triviz Trail tunnel in 2020

The KLBC’s art focus will be on restoring several prominent, aging, and faded murals, which the Las Cruces Public Art (LCPA) program had previously earmarked as priority maintenance projects when funding became available. With an artist acting as the crew leader, the youth will learn by doing the restoration work on the designated murals (which are not under contract to any one artist or team by the way). Participants are not necessarily artists or interested in art related careers but will gain experience working in a creative environment while still learning career skills that can be applied to any field. Youth who are interested in art as a career will gain invaluable experience that could lead to future employment. 

Blank wall in Trivez Trail shows primed wall in first phase of mural. Trivez tunnel wall with borders painted in.

2020 YCC Project: Triviz Trail tunnel prepped for mural which replaced the graffiti covered walls. 

What the youth may not realize is, what they accomplish during the short time they participate in the YCC project will make a significant impact on the maintenance goals of the LCPA program, which are to provide regular and consistent maintenance to the Las Cruces Public Art Collection, restore damaged or aging artwork, or to replace art pieces that are beyond repair. 

Mural Team member bends to dip paint brush in can of paint in front of mural wall.

2020 YCC Mural Project: Crew member at work.

Murals on both walls of multi-use trail going through under pass Triviz Trail

2020 YCC Mural Project: Completed Triviz Trail tunnel 

We appreciate that YCC understands the importance of supporting creative economy projects. We appreciate that City departments like Parks & Rec and programs like KLCB believe in public art as a means of beautification. Mostly, we appreciate the benefits that come to LCPA when others join forces to make art happen. 

For more information about the YCC project, please contact the Parks & Recreation Department at 575/541-2000. 

Rubber Ducks blog is brought to you by the Las Cruces Public Art program to share ideas, information, discussions, trends, and all things public art. Please send comments and ideas for future blogs to [email protected].

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Nov 30

Everlasting Art

Posted on November 30, 2022 at 8:01 AM by Ceci Vasconcellos

Unity and diversity, both overused buzzwords in today’s social commentary to grab attention, much as I’m doing now, right? A graduate art student at NMSU wrote a proposal for an art commission competition based on her perception of Las Cruces, won the commission, and named her sculpture installation “Unity in Diversity.” Cashing in on buzzwords for attention? Hardly. The art installation was commissioned over 35 years ago. 

I had the pleasure of chatting with artist Beverly Penn, whose sculpture “Unity in Diversity” stands at the entrance to the Thomas Branigan Memorial Library (TBML) parking lot. “The inspiration behind the design was the diversity of rich cultures of Las Cruces that I observed,” she said. Ms. Penn was also influenced by the adjacent library. “A library is a resource, right? Filled with information contained in books and other materials. Everything in a library comes together to complete this resource for knowledge. That’s also reflected in the design of my sculpture.”  

Image of original design drawings of what the sculpture will look like when finished.

Then: Original drawing of design for the sculpture. 

Front view of the Unity in Diversity sculpture with Branigan library in background.

Now: Unity in Diversity sculpture with Thomas Branigan Memorial Library in the background.

The art piece is made of Corten steel and galvanized steel pipe, featuring a wedge-like shape standing on end with linear elements anchored at the base leading to the top in a cluster. “The standing element is actually a circle,” said Ms. Penn. “If it were to lay flat, it would be a full circle, which in architectural terms is the most perfect of shapes; always in motion and always in rest.” She explained that the linear elements represent the many diverse cultures, inputs, and support that are required to keep a community together, symbolized by the circle.

Image of original design drawings of the circular piece.

Original design drawing of circle element for sculpture. 

The City of Las Cruces partnered with NMSU to apply for a grant to fund public art projects. “The grant funded $10,000 annually for art commissions,” recalls Ms. Penn. “My sculpture was the first of three art installations funded by that grant.” Penn remembers there were about ten art students who submitted proposals for this commission. Her proposal was chosen by a selection committee made up of university art department staff, including the department head, and City staff.

The artist recollects that “tapping” the linear elements (securing them together at the top) was the hardest part. During our discussion, she confirmed that “the linear rod side, where the plaque is, is the front side of the sculpture”. The entire sculpture took about 18 months to complete. It was recently relocated from another location within Albert Johnson Park to its current location closer to TBML.

Image of original design drawings of the design with measurements.

Original drawing of linear rod elements using tapping technique to secure to top.

Beverly Penn is currently a tenured Professor in the School of Art and Design at Texas State University. Her impressive scope of creative work includes both national and international accolades. She includes “Unity in Diversity” in her list of commissioned public art projects, which is a nice nod to that $10,000 graduate student project, created so long ago but still relevant in its message. 

The back view of sculpture Unity in Diversity with police department and pharmacy in background

Back view of Unity in Diversity with police department and pharmacy in the background.  

Rubber Ducks blog is brought to you by the Las Cruces Public Art program to share ideas, information, discussions, trends, and all things public art. Please send comments and ideas for future blogs to [email protected]

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Oct 19

Scan, Listen, Win!

Posted on October 19, 2022 at 11:12 AM by Ceci Vasconcellos

I don’t do scavenger hunts, I am not good at them, they cause me anxiety. When the City Art Board suggested a scavenger hunt to promote the “Discover Las Cruces Public Art” audio stories pilot program, I was skeptical but soon realized it was the perfect activity for this purpose. 

The “Discover Las Cruces Public Art” scavenger hunt kicked off at the beginning of October and will close at the end of the month. The idea behind the audio stories program is to enhance the experience of visiting our public art with interesting facts or anecdotal tidbits about the piece in the form of interpretive audio stories, which are accessible by scanning a QR code. The hunt is easy, and I promise you will have fun doing it! 

Public art sign with a scan image in front of a tree

The best part – if you don’t want to go hunting, you can still scan at least one code at any of the locations and learn more about that piece of public art. For example: Do you know which public art piece was designed to be a cooling station? It may take a visit to a few locations to find the answer, but you will find it. 

 And since you’ve already started, you might as well visit all nine locations. And since you’ve gone to all nine, you might as well submit your answers. And if you answer all the clues correctly, which you will, you can be a weekly winner. As one of our weekly winners, you will receive a prize and be entered to win the grand prize drawing at the end of October. Or again, you can scan just one code and still have an enhanced experience seeing public art. It’s perfect, right? I like this scavenger hunt.  

Click on this link to see a map to all nine locations. 

Rubber Ducks blog is brought to you by the Las Cruces Public Art program to share ideas, information, discussions, trends, and all things public art. Please send comments and ideas for future blogs to [email protected]

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