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May 30

Lost But Not Forgotten

Posted on May 30, 2023 at 12:01 PM by Justin Schmidt

There is something about looking at historical buildings that triggers my imagination. Architecturally, some are very beautiful to look at while others have an aura created by long-ago people that resided there and events that took place there. Some historical structures no longer exist and can only be found in old photographs showing where they once stood. The visual echoes of such buildings still trigger the imagination and possibly some nostalgia for sure.  

City Hall is now exhibiting a portion of “The Lost Buildings of Las Cruces”, a photo collection which highlights some of the buildings that once graced our downtown. The exhibit was guest curated by local historian Chris Schurtz, and first displayed at the Branigan Cultural Center in 2013. Since then, it has been displayed at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum and portions of it have migrated their way around City Hall.  

The preservation of older buildings is usually the result of someone having the foresight to recognize what is not shiny and new today, could someday be valued for the history it represents. Unfortunately, that does not always happen.  

Such was the case of the Las Cruces downtown. Developers were looking to bring a different aesthetic to main street where all was modern and new. This mindset meant that older buildings were not part of their vision. Therefore, most of the physical structures are long gone but fortunately preserved in these historic photographs. 

The black and white photos in “Lost Buildings” highlight landmark buildings transporting the viewer to a time when Las Cruces was a new and growing metropolis. The structures once stood in places that are well-known to community members today and may spark personal memories of nights out on the town, shopping trips, or the homes of friends. Visitors will see a snapshot of Las Cruces’ vibrant past. All can appreciate what once was, while enjoying our modern times. 

Black and white photograph of the Hotel Rouault in downtown Las Cruces circa 1930. 

Photo Credit: New Mexico State University, Archives and Special Collections

Hotel Rouault circa 1930 was located where the Plaza de Las Cruces stands today. The “Lost Buildings” exhibit is located on the second floor of City Hall in Suite 2300. All are welcome to visit during regular business hours.

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].Rubber Ducks Banner

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May 26

¡MIRA! Chalk the Plaza

Posted on May 26, 2023 at 1:17 PM by Taylor Jensen

Get ready for the first Chalk the Plaza pavement art competition. The City Art Board is hosting the chalk art event as part of the Mira! Las Cruces Spring Festival taking place on April 29. Vote for your favorite and help them win the People’s Choice prize. There is also a Best of Show prize, voted on by the City Art Board. I wish there could be a prize for all; they will be that good.  

People seem to enjoy watching the process of creating pavement chalk art. The medium has a long history and is considered a difficult art technique to master.  It is often 2D artwork, some ventures into 3D. These masterworks of dimensional space and art are some of my favorites.   

3D street art is based on the trompe l’oeil art technique that literally translates to “deceive the eye.” This technique was and still is used to paint artwork on ceilings or anywhere that the illusion of depth and space is desired. The technique of doing 3D pavement art is known as anamorphosis, which creates the realism effect when viewed from the correct angle. 

Chalk art on streets goes back to 16th century Europe. In Italy, madonnari (street artists) would travel from festival to festival drawing religious icons for coins. In London, chalk artists appeared in the mid-1800s and were called “screevers”, in reference to the written messages in their drawings. Screevers became popularized by the character “Bert” in Disney’s Mary Poppins movie.  

Actor Dick Van Dyke as Bert, creating chalk art on cement.

Actor Dick Van Dyke as Bert the screever in Disney's Mary Poppins movie. photo credit: Still from Walt Disney's Mary Poppins,1964. 

American artist Kurt Wenner, is credited for bringing the Italian madonnari technique to the United States in the ‘80s, introducing the art form at the first chalk walk festival in America in 1986. He created his own technique known as hyperbolic perspective, and is considered one of the best along with other anamorphosis pioneer artists Edgar Müller, and Julian Beever. Wenner established several other festivals, including the Pasadena Chalk Festival, which is considered one of the world’s largest. 

3D style chalk art of Spiderman and skyscrapers, by Kurt WennerSpiderman, Universal Studios, Osaka, Japan Artist: Kurt Wenner Photo credit:

Chalk art of woman in pool by Julian Beever on sidewalk.Artist Julian Beever used the anamorphosis technique for his design. This photo was taken from the correct angle. photo credit:

Chalk art by Julian Beever on sidewalk.This is the same design from the wrong angle. photo credit:

Chalk art of waterfall on street, by Edgar Muller.Edgar Müller covers an entire street with this waterfall design. The people in the photo pose in the realistic looking pavement art. Photo credit:

Chalk art on street, by Edgar Muller.Same artwork from the wrong angle. Not so realistic looking anymore. photo credit: 

Closer to home, El Paso has an annual Chalk the Walk festival that attracts thousands of spectators. Local artist Bob Diven coordinated a well-attended chalk competition for several years downtown on Main St. Recently, the Museum of Art held a Chalk Walk event which attracted hundreds of people who watched the artists create their drawings in the museum's courtyard.  

Flyer of Chalk art with the description: Here's the art of Chalk Walk March 11, 2023Art work by participating artists of the Chalk Walk event held at the Museum of Art in March. photo credit: Facebook @LCMuseums 

The City Art Board will host their pavement art event with the hope of possibly growing it into an annual destination event. The pioneers in this case are the artists who are participating in the first Chalk the Plaza. Not because they have never participated in other chalk art events, but because their work will be seen by all the people drawn to the first Mira! Las Cruces Spring Festival. Street art is done by kneeling, bending, and sitting on the hard ground – it is grueling, physical work. And it requires specific knowledge and training. Mixed with the natural talent and creativity of the artist, it’s no wonder that so many are fascinated by the process and appreciate the artwork created at chalk art events.

Chalk the Plaza artists will be competing for two prizes: Best of Show and People’s Choice. Please come by and vote for your favorite and tell the artists how much you appreciate their efforts. Chalk the Plaza takes place on Saturday, April 29 from 2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. as part of the Mira! Las Cruces Spring Festival  from 2:00 p.m. –10:00 p.m. Both events will take place at the Downtown Plaza and are free to the public.  

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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Mar 16

Plática Con Las Muchachas

Posted on March 16, 2023 at 8:05 AM by Ceci Vasconcellos

Jardin de Mesquite Gateway, on the corner of Spruce Ave. and Tornillo St., features beautiful, tiled murals depicting life as it was in the Historic Mesquite District through snapshots of people, places, and things. Captions of information on the tiles hint at a bigger story behind the scenes, sparking the imagination as well as providing historic context. 

When looking at the detail of the murals, it’s obvious that the vignettes are based on authentic moments in time captured by the families and residents of the original townsite. How did this come about? I reached out to Irene Oliver-Lewis, whose name is on the dedication plaque at the site, to ask about the project. She invited her sister, Sylvia Camunez, to join our conversation. The sisters, known to their family and friends as las muchachas (the girls), have deep-roots in the Historic District and still live in their ancestral home. 

Jardin de Mesquite Arch

Jardin de Mesquite, located on the corner of Spruce Ave. and Tornillo St., is the northern gateway to the Historic Mesquite District. Artwork © Court Youth Center

“Sylvia was President of Las Esperanzas at the time,” said Oliver-Lewis. “She spear-headed the project.” Las Esperanzas is a grassroots neighborhood organization whose mission is to preserve the history of the Mesquite District. There were many people involved in bringing the project to fruition, but ultimately, “it was the neighborhood that brought the garden to the City,” says Camunez. 

The artwork within the gateway park was created by Court Youth Center/Alma d’arte Charter School students under the supervision of artist Ken Wolverton. The tiled murals are composites of actual photos of residents from the neighborhood. “Ken Wolverton had neighborhood residents bring in photos and scanned them all,” said Camunez. “There were maybe 300 to 500 images scanned! That’s where the designs came from.” The exception was the image of Pablo Melendres, one of the founding fathers of the original townsite. "There were no images of him, so we had to modify and make up our own. We knew he was a farmer and knew his past, and that's how we came up with that image." Another source of images was from a previous oral history exhibit that had been done at the Court Youth Center. “It took almost a year to put the art for the park together,” recalled Camunez. 

Mosaic Panel

Founding father Pablo Melendres image (right) was created for this project because there were no photos of him. Artwork © Court Youth Center

The student artists chose the photos that would be used in the project from the hundreds of scanned photos and grouped them together to tell a story. “The kids hand painted the photos onto blank white tiles, Ken did the color design, and then they were fired in the museum kiln. Each tile is completely handmade," said Oliver-Lewis. "There was lots of guidance from Ken of course, and Sylvia was always there behind the scenes. The youth who participated were in the after-school program at Court Youth Center and just happened to attend Alma d’arte," she added. 

Some of the images used are near and dear to Las Muchachas. "The St. Genevieve Church panel has a photo of Sylvia's wedding. There's four people; Sylvia is the bride and our sister is the Maid of Honor," said Oliver-Lewis. "The panel also shows me in my First Communion outfit. And in the 50's panel, our brother is one of the teens in the image. We didn't choose the photos, it was a coincidence. It's just a really beautiful project." 

Mosaic Panel

Las Muchachas, Sylvia Camunez and Irene Oliver-Lewis are in this panel. Sylvia is the bride in the foursome bridal party in front of the church. Irene is one of the girls in the white dresses. The Court Youth Center/Alma d'arte student artists chose these images randomly for the project. Artwork © Court Youth Center

The result is a wall that perfectly captures the nostalgia of a close-knit community in a bygone era. It also preserves the history of the original townsite as told by the people who lived it, that will resonate with visitors for years to come. The tiled murals uniquely beautify this neighborhood gateway that provides a space for rest and reflection. "The Jardin really has a lot of history that isn't documented anywhere," said Sylvia. Las Muchachas agree that it's one of the prettiest parks in the city, just underutilized. “It's a great place to have a picnic.”  And to look at beautiful art. 

Jardin de Mesquite

Dedication plaque with names of Court Youth Center/Alma d'arte student artists who participated in the project. Artwork © Court Youth Center

Jardin de Mesquite Jardin de Mesquite courtyard wall with all the tiled murals. Artwork © Court Youth Center

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].Rubber Ducks Blog Banner

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