Rubber Ducks

Click here to SUBSCRIBE

Sep 01

History of a Park

Posted on September 1, 2023 at 11:11 AM by Ceci Vasconcellos

There’s a neighborhood park that sits in the center of the Historic Mesquite District. It features the usual park amenities like a playground, picnic tables, a basketball court, baseball backstop, and game tables. What makes this park special, though, is its ties to the history of the people who have lived in the neighborhood since the 1800s. 

 Klein Park, bordered by Organ Ave., Mesquite St., Griggs Ave., and San Pedro St., existed as an open space since before the founding of Las Cruces in 1849. It became the public plaza for the district when the church plaza was no longer available. The privately owned space was deeded to the City of Las Cruces for a park in 1939 for $10. Trees were added to the dirt block along the four sides. In 1953, a concrete bandstand was added and the park was named Klein Park after the City’s longest serving mayor, Mr. Samuel Klein.Up close photo of the Klein Park Plaque

Klien Park commemorative plaque originally (above) and today (below)

Klein Park Plaque in front a red building surrounded by trees

The neighborhood residents are very passionate about the park. Ask anyone from the neighborhood about Klein Park, and they will get a faraway look in their eyes as they recall the good old days with memories of weddings, quinceaneras, reunions, celebrations, fiestas and other milestone occasions that took place there. Children played, teens socialized, families barbequed, the local baseball team practiced, all at Klein Park. It is the site of so many important life events of the original families who settled in the area. Yet, the bandstand is the only true historic marker in the park. Band stand stage located at Klein Park, behind a basketball court and grassKlein Park bandstand today

Girls dressed in purple china poblana dresses dance in a circle around a boy with skull makeupFifth Annual Pachanga Festival in Klein Park Photo credit: Nathan J. Fish/Sun News

The community has prioritized preserving the history of Klein Park by sharing its stories. One way to do this is through public art. The City Art Board and Las Cruces Public Art program committed to helping add art to the park, commissioning one of the district’s native sons, artist Diego Medina, to paint a mural on the border walls of the park that reflects the culture and history of the neighborhood. Mr. Medina’s ancestors have lived in this area for centuries, so he understands the cultural diversity of the district.  

In his proposal, Mr. Medina said he “plans to create a mural that will connect Las Cruces’ past with its present and future.” His design includes abstract patterns inspired by indigenous motifs found on pottery from the region. There will be open vignettes throughout the design for images of historical and cultural significance. Mr. Medina plans to involve the neighborhood community in creating the artwork. He will also consult with local organizations such as Las Esperanzas, that has an ongoing oral history project called “Mis Memorias.” The addition of Mr. Medina’s public art mural will help to recognize the park as “historic” as well as beautify it with culturally appropriate artwork that all can enjoy. Klein Park Art Concept 2

Klein Park Art Concept 3Artist Diego Medina's concept art for border wall at Klein Park

The Historic Mesquite District where Klein Park is located is an arts and cultural destination that draws visitors to its restaurants and art galleries, several that are located directly across from the park that provides an outdoor space for visitors to enjoy. Special events such as Cinco de Mayo and Diez y Seis de Septiembre festivals are held there as well as other local events. More importantly, Klein Park is a place of pride for the community; a gem that represents cultural roots, lineage, generational memory, and historical preservation. There are plans to add art to the bandstand once it undergoes some needed repair. It’s also a nice place to simply have picnics, let children play, practice sports or meet friends. 

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

Jul 28

Creatively Connecting with Community

Posted on July 28, 2023 at 9:49 AM by Ceci Vasconcellos

The City Art Board (CAB) is a seven-member volunteer board that serves in an advisory capacity to City Council on all matters related to Las Cruces public art. Members are appointed at large by the mayor and City Council for four-year terms.  

Christina (Tina) Ballew completed her four-year term recently after serving as Chair for two years and Vice Chair in her last year. During Ms. Ballew’s tenure, the Board helped to establish a two-percent funding ordinance, completed three new public art projects, coordinated professional development workshops for artists, and participated in community outreach events to promote the public art program. 

Ms. Ballew agreed to write a blog about her experience as a City Art Board member. Here it is in her words. Thanks for your service Tina!

Connecting to Community Through CAB


Christina Ballew, Artist, Business Owner, and Former CAB Chair

Volunteering on the City Art Board for the past four years has been an incredibly enriching experience for me. When I initially signed up to volunteer, I had no idea how much I would learn and grow through this opportunity.

One of the most valuable aspects of my time on the board was learning  the process of purchasing public art. Selecting and acquiring artwork for public spaces taught me to appreciate different artistic styles and understand art's impact on a community. Through various funding sources such as GO bonds and CIP money, the board and other stakeholders carefully curate pieces that will enhance the visual appeal and cultural vibrancy of city-owned property. 

Tree of Knowledge art piece beside a bench with a view of the Organ Mountains in the background

Tree of Knowledge by Jeffie Brewer installed in Calle Abuelos Park in 2020.

Moreover, serving on the City Art Board allowed me to develop my leadership skills. After a six-month hiatus due to Covid-19, I was elected to be Chair. As Chair, you serve for one year with a maximum of two years. I quickly learned that effective leadership balances different perspectives and facilitates constructive discussions. I had to navigate through varying opinions, conflicting interests, and diverse personalities within the board. Encouraging open dialogue, finding common ground, and guiding the decision-making process toward consensus was crucial. As a result, I became a more confident and capable leader, able to manage discussions and contribute meaningfully to our board's initiatives.

Cloud Cover sculpture on Fire Station 3

"Cloud Cover" sculpture by Art Garcia installed on May 2023 at Fire Station #3. 

The most fulfilling aspect of my volunteer work was realizing how much our City Art Board contributes to the local arts economy. Before my time on the Board, I had yet to learn about the opportunities the City offers local artists. I can admit that I had a misconception that local artists weren't being prioritized for big jobs before I joined; I used to ask myself, what does the city do for its artists? In truth, the opportunity has been there, but local artists' submissions for these projects could be better. So, the Art Board developed a series of workshops that help prepare local artists to be more competitive in public art calls. These workshops educate artists about obtaining a business license, having the correct insurance, and using the CaFÉ Call for Artist platform.

By supporting and promoting local artists, the City Art Board helps create a body of public art that attracts visitors, generates revenue, and fosters a sense of pride in our community. Witnessing the City Art Board’s tangible impact on artists and the local economy was eye-opening and gratifying.

I encourage others to consider volunteering to be on the City Art Board. Or, if you can't commit to four years, volunteer on a selection committee. This committee helps vet the proposals for art, select, and then recommend the selection to the City Art Board for a vote. Each selection committee comprises two city art board members, an owner of the city building or architect or developer, and a community member. You can experience the process from the call-for-art to installation. If you're an artist, you can apply that experience when submitting your art to future calls. 

The booth for Chalk the Plaza at the Mira Las Cruces event

Katrina Chandler, CAB Chair, and Tina Ballew, CAB Vice Chair, setting up for Chalk the Plaza at the Mira Las Cruces festival.

Working on the City Art Board has expanded my knowledge of art, allowed me to grow as a leader, and provided me with the satisfaction of contributing to the local arts economy. Not only does volunteering for the City Art Board provide an opportunity to give back to the community, but it also offers personal and professional growth. I will continuously attribute new skills I have learned from my time on the board to things I do in daily life.

Large art sculpture of a cat and dog in front of the Animal Services Center

"Sun Shelter" sculpture by Vito DiBari installed on June 2023 at the Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley.

If you want to engage with the arts meaningfully, develop valuable skills, and make a lasting impact on your city's cultural landscape, sign right up. 

Contact the City Art Board liaison for more information on selection committees or fill out an application to be a board member. You can always join a meeting as a public participant to see behind-the-scenes conversations and help contribute ideas.

 If you are interested in applying to serve on the City Art Board or other City committees and Boards go to Boards, Committees, Commissions for information. 

 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

Rubber Ducks Banner Return to Public Art

Jun 05

Guest Blog: My Favorite Public Art Piece by Jazmine Garcia, Public Art Program Intern

Posted on June 5, 2023 at 10:56 AM by Ceci Vasconcellos

Jazmine Garcia worked as an intern with the Quality of Life Department/Public Art Program through the ACE program at Centennial High School during the Spring semester. Jazmine helped create content for the Public Art social media sites, created materials for outreach programs, helped update our database, and did other public art related tasks. The goal was that she would learn not only some new marketing skills but also learn more about the City’s public art collection, and hopefully develop a newfound appreciation for public art in general. 

As Jazmine’s internship was coming to an end, I invited her to  share with our blog readers her thoughts about her favorite artwork in our public art collection. Here are Jazmine’s insights on Jardin de la Fortaleza.

The Jardin de la Fortaleza is a real unique project. The youth in the community center made this beautiful project. There are murals and landscaping. It captures the beauty of youth by using flowers and hummingbirds around a little girl, which is why I really like this project. Now that school and my internship are coming to an end for the summer, I realized that art is powerful in so many ways. While I did this internship with Public Art, I learned so much about art, marketing, and so much more. The City of Las Cruces really works hard to help the youth of Las Cruces be successful in whatever they want to do. I picked this mural not only because I really like it, but because it represents youth.

Wall mural art of a young girl surrounded by flowers, and birds by Jardin de la Fortaleza

Jardin de la Fortaleza mural is located at the Juvenile Citation Program Learning Center courtyard. 

It’s apropos that this is the art piece that resonates with Jazmine. It’s youth speaking to youth. Jardin de la Fortaleza was created by adolescents in the Juvenile Citation Program lead by Parks and Recreation staff member and artist, Lorenzo Braulio. According to the artist, it was meant to be a visual story of finding inner peace through focusing on beauty and thus finding fortitude. The mural was the first official project for the Las Cruces Mural Arts program through the Parks and Recreation Department. It was painted in 2014. On a side note, the image of the child in the mural is the artist’s daughter who was four months old at the time. 

Thank you, Jazmine!

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

Rubber Ducks Banner Return to Public Art