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Sep 23

And the Winner Is...

Posted on September 23, 2022 at 10:01 AM by Ceci Vasconcellos

Congratulations to the City Art Board, the winner of this year’s “Art in Public Places” award presented by the Doña Ana Arts Council at their Community Arts Awards event. The award recognizes those who “have created or placed art on permanent public view within Doña Ana County that exemplifies the highest standards and commitment to art in public places” and was given to both past and present board members. The City Art Board Chair accepted the award, not only on behalf of the current board, but also on behalf of all those board members that have come before. 

The City Art Board, an advisory volunteer board whose members are appointed by the Mayor of Las Cruces, was established in 2013. Members have cycled on and off, but the mission and vision of the program continues with each iteration of the City Art Board. They have been involved in the implementation of a Two Percent Public Art Funding Ordinance, have helped to complete the adoption of the current public art master plan, and have commissioned five new public art installations, two that are still in process of completion. Well-deserved City Art Board!

Group photo of City Art Board and guests at the Dona Ana Arts Awards

Pictured from Left to Right: Melanie Brown, CAB Secretary, Ceci Vasconcellos, Art Program Coordinator, Adam Amador, CAB Member, Tina Ballew, CAB Vice Chair, Katrina Chandler, CAB Chair, Councilor Yvonne Flores, Chantelle Yazzie-Martin, CAB Member. Front: Collette Chandler, guest.

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 PublicArt@las-cruces.org.

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Aug 12

Why Cheetahs?

Posted on August 12, 2022 at 9:30 AM by Ceci Vasconcellos

Recently, a colleague asked me if I knew what the cheetahs represented in the artwork on the I-25/Missouri bridge underpass. Did cheetahs once roam the Mesilla Valley? I have seen the artwork while driving by and thought the spotted cats added a nice touch to the mural, accepting that the “cheetahs” looked very natural in the desert landscape. But why would cheetahs be in the desert? Are they connected to some indigenous folklore? Were they abandoned after a circus broke down here long ago? What story were we missing? I told her I would find out. 

First, the spotted cats are not cheetahs, nor panthers, nor leopards. They are, in fact, jaguars. As the name of the mural informs us - “Running with the Jaguars” by Santa Fe artist Meg Hachmann. The art piece was commissioned by the Department of Transportation in 2014 as part of their bridge rehabilitation project. 

Circle shape with close up of jaguar sitting in grass on side of freeway bridge.

Side view of "Running with the Jaguars" mural on I-25/Missouri Bridge

The mural, made from poured concrete with form liners, features six jaguars running along an arroyo, hence the name. According to the artist, “The mural was inspired by, and is a tribute to, the restoration of natural habitats for endangered species such as the American jaguar.” 

Two Jaguars running in arroyo against greenery and mountains with full moon rising.

Two jaguars running across desert landscape towards a windmill with two white birds flying above.

Partial view of "Running with the Jaguars" mural on the underpass walls of the I-25/Missouri bridge.

Bringing awareness to this cause is great, but in my research of jaguars in the Southwest, I didn’t see anything that showed they lived in this area at all. They migrated from Mexico to Arizona and the Lordsburg/Silver City areas of New Mexico. However, there is a strong Mexican cultural tie to jaguars that fits into our culture here. 

Jaguars have been one of Mexico’s most enduring symbolic animals for thousands of years according to the Mexicolore website. The image of the America’s largest and most powerful cat appears in the art of most ancient Mexican civilizations. Jaguars symbolize bravery and strength. Throughout history, Aztecs and Mayans idolized the cats as fantastical creatures possessing supernatural powers. Jaguars are revered in many ancient rituals and ancient artwork found in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. In modern times, the jaguar is still culturally relevant to native Mexicans.

Two shamanistic jaguar masks from the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City

Two shamanistic jaguar masks, National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City.  Photo Credit: Mexicolore Website

Stone Aztec jaguar in a resting pose sculpture , National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City Stone Aztec jaguar sculpture, Nation Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City. Photo Credit: Mexicolore Website 

Poster for exhibit featuring the Huizache Jaguar painting by Cesar Martinez.

Huizache Jaguar by César Martínez, one of several featured artists in the "Icons and Symbols of the Borderland" exhibit now showing at the Las Cruces Museum of Art.

Rounding back to the “Running with the Jaguars” mural – the artists intent was to bring awareness to a worthy cause but perhaps unintentionally and because art is open to interpretation, the artist created a vignette that may inspire the viewer to imagine a time when these beautiful animals were abundant, running wild and inspiring people to adopt their majestic spirit in the material culture and art that is very much a part of our lives today. Hope that answers the cheetah question.  

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 PublicArt@las-cruces.org     

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Jul 27

Lost But Not Forgotten

Posted on July 27, 2022 at 8:34 AM by Ceci Vasconcellos

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. 

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