For the Love of Art Month: February
There is a lot to look forward to and a lot to love during the month of February—and we are not talking about Valentine’s Day. Every February, all forms of art take center stage in the city of Las Cruces, New Mexico with “For the Love of Art Month”. This yearly event started in 1998. It is a regional art celebration of the visual, literary, and performing arts spearheaded by the ArtForms Artists Association of New Mexico.
This month-long art appreciation affair will feature multiple exhibits and special events at galleries, museums, theatres, artist studios, and specialty venues. It includes the participation of local art galleries, businesses, and homegrown artists and showcases the very best of the vibrant Las Cruces art scene. Three major venues, the Mesquite Gallery, Cruces Creatives, and Dona Ana Arts Council will be featuring works of art from gifted local artists. The Artist of the Year will be chosen during this time, as well as the first, second, and third place winners. On weekends, art enthusiasts can participate in studio tours where they can see various artists in their own space and at work. In addition to the various events and exhibits dedicated to the visual arts, there will be theater performances, poetry readings, and musical events.
New Mexico, A Rich History of Art
To outsiders, New Mexico connotes a very distinct style and identity when it comes to art and architecture. Those who know better will tell you that New Mexico art is so much more nuanced, attractive, vibrant, diverse, and steeped in history than one would expect.
New Mexico’s art history is a fusion of influences from the Paleo-Indians, its first inhabitants; the Spanish colonizers, and other Europeans and Native Americans who made New Mexico their home. The Native Americans, including Navajos and Apaches, settled in New Mexico, bringing with them their art and culture, which are deeply influenced by the spiritual and the natural world. They left behind artifacts and mysterious symbols and images drawn on cave and canyon walls. Some of these were carefully excavated, restored, and preserved, and can still be viewed in museums to this day.
When the Spaniards arrived, they brought with them a distinct style and never before seen materials like paints and dyes. The art of New Mexico, as people know it today, began to take shape inspired both by the existing indigenous culture and the unique landscape. Many of the works of art during this time also had a distinct Catholic iconography, for which the Spanish are quite known. This is evident not just in the visual arts, but perhaps most notably in architecture. The storied town of Mesilla, for instance, as well as the rest of New Mexico, are quite known for their beautiful mission churches, some of which are over a hundred years old!
It didn’t take long for the Anglo-Americans and Europeans to come pouring in by train, whether as tourists or as permanent settlers. The brought with them their own cultures, novel ideas, and the most fashionable trends from their place of origin. Through all these changes and influx of influences, the native indigenous culture held its own and even thrived. To this day, Northern New Mexico art and Western New Mexico art are practically synonymous with Native American or at least Native American “inspired” art and architecture.
The Artforms Artists Association of New Mexico
With such a history, it is no wonder that New Mexico, as a region, takes special pride in its culture as evidenced by an art scene that is vibrant and diverse, yet deeply entrenched and respectful of tradition.
The Artforms Artists Association of New Mexico is one such organization that aims to promote and support all forms of art, including visual, performing, and literary. They fully recognize that a thriving art scene that allows budding artists to flourish is a vital part of the cultural and socioeconomic development of the region. They offer their members a great support system where they can be mentored, be given opportunities to showcase their works and meet people in the industry who can assist them.
The organization works to make sure that the local creative community has the resources it needs to thrive and become a revenue-generating industry. This, in turn, will result in recognition, nationally and internationally, of Las Cruces and its surrounding area as a destination for art and culture.
ArtForms membership is open to the public. Their members include artists and art enthusiasts alike, business owners and entrepreneurs, art students and teachers. It’s a diverse group that openly share their skills, resources, and time. ArtForms hold member exhibits and get-togethers throughout the year to facilitate these exchanges. The For Love of Art celebration every February is among the organization’s biggest event.
Featured Art Galleries in Las Cruces
With such a rich culture and history, it only follows that New Mexico has numerous options when it comes to art galleries, studios, museums, and other centers of culture. In Las Cruces, here are among the top art galleries that carry the works of local artists and artisans, from sculptures, paintings, ancient artifacts, and contemporary art.
- New Mexico State University Art Gallery – American Southwest Theatre Co.
This university art gallery features contemporary visual arts of the region. They hold six to nine major exhibits every year, focusing mostly on works by graduate students, undergraduate students, faculty, traveling exhibitions, and curated works from the University’s permanent collection of 18th, 19th, and 20th-century art.
- Corbett Center Art Gallery at New Mexico State University
This art gallery features exhibitions of high-quality works of art of various mediums curated from submissions of graduate and undergraduate students. The students are encouraged to submit their works for consideration.
- Mesilla Valley Fine Arts Gallery
This art gallery is a cooperative of 30 local artists that produce high quality and original pieces of art. The gallery showcases a varied selection of paintings in all media, photography, ceramics, glass, and jewelry. The featured artworks share a distinct Southwestern style.
- William Bonney Gallery
Renowned local and international artists like Noel Espinoza, Steve Hanks, Rebecca Altuna, Fred Chilton, Miguel Varella, Donald Dowell, and many others have been featured in this gallery’s historic halls. It also houses one of the best selections of kachinas, pottery, bronze sculptures, and gold jewelry.
Below is a Complete List of the Art Galleries In Las Cruces
Las Cruces, New Mexico – Artists and Artisans
- Alan D. Small
Alan D. Small is an artist specializing in western and southwestern art. He combines traditional western and contemporary styles in his works. He is known for incorporating a lot of color in his art, believing it best represents the West.
- Iron Horse Furnishings LLC
This custom furniture company manufactures custom pieces, designs, and gifts, working with skilled artisans to create one-of-a-kind furniture that doubles as art pieces.
- Steve Hastings
Steve Hastings is a painter and printmaker specializing in Southwest desert subjects. His work often depicts cactus and their blossoms and other desert scenes.
- Fine Pottery
This design studio offers fine pottery made in collaboration with local artists. The artists they’ve worked with include Arturo Ledezma, Lucio Blanco, Juan Castillo, and Erika Hernandez.
With so much art to experience, why not make a weekend of it? Special Art Lovers Hotel packages include a bottle of wine, two complimentary wine glasses, and chocolates. Rates start at just $97 per night.
Famous Literary Work From Las Cruces
- The Last of the Menu Girls, Denise Chavez
The Last of the Menu Girls is a short story collection set in New Mexico by Denise Chavez. Chavez was born and raised in Las Cruces. She taught creative writing in the New Mexico State University and founded the Border Book Festival in Las Cruces. She is a recipient of the Rockefeller Playwriting Fellowship in 1985, the American Book Award in 1995, the New Mexico Governor’s Award in Literature in 1995, the Premio Aztlan Literary Prize, the Mesilla Valley Author of the Year Award, the Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature, and the Lifetime Achievement Award, Paul Bartlett Re Peace Prize.
Famous Musician from Las Cruces
- Bri Bagwell
Bri Bagwell is a successful country artist who was born and raised in Las Cruces. She started showing an acumen for music at a very young age. As a teenager, she was already creating music and performing with her siblings. Bagwell moved to Austin, Texas to study at the University of Texas where she also performed at clubs. She pursued a career in music full-time after graduation, joining CMT’s Next Superstar, a televised talent competition for aspiring country artists. Despite not winning the competition, the exposure won Bagwell fans and supporters and opened a lot of doors for her singing career. In 2013 and 2014, she was named Female Vocalist of the Year by the Texas Regional Radio Music Awards. Bagwell has released three full-length albums and has been busy touring the country with her band, performing as many as 150 shows in a year. Bri has performed multiple times at the Las Cruces Country Music Festival, a signature event for the City of the Crosses.
The 2019 Las Cruces International Film Festival features the best of the best in independent cinema, workshops, panels, celebrity appearances and VIP parties. This year’s celebrities include George Lopez, Edward James Olmos, Kathleen Quinlan, and Don Foster (writer/producer of The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men). The Festival is presented by New Mexico State University. Programs, workshops, films, lectures, and events will be held from February 19th – 24th, 2019