COMMENTARY: I hope it does not come as a surprise to you to hear that Las Cruces is brimming with diverse talent and culture. Artists, musicians, writers, actors, dancers, filmmakers, and all types of creative people are making a living pursuing their passions right here in Las Cruces.
This shows that we have an inspired community, and we can market this as being one of many reasons tourists should visit Las Cruces and spend money here.
The City of Las Cruces and the Downtown Las Cruces Partnership are currently in the beginning stages of defining an Arts and Culture District for Las Cruces in order to better market the arts to visitors. This will be an area that is rich in cultural venues in our city.
On Feb. 26, I attended a brainstorming session (called a charette) at the Munson Senior Center, where the general public was invited to help the city define this proposed cultural district and learn what more could be done to help the Las Cruces art scene thrive. I have more ideas and feedback than I can pack into one article, but one of my primary concerns is this:
How do we define an Arts & Culture District in a city that is full of culture, every inch of it?
I am not making a joke here (maybe just a slight hyperbole), nor am I against having an Arts and Culture District defined in Las Cruces. But I want to be sure that the city and the people of Las Cruces understand how rich we are in culture while we embark on marketing our talents to tourists. We have a vibrant city with thousands of creative people constantly generating new work and sharing it with the community.
For fear of leaving out a number of superb cultural assets, I won’t try to list them all here, but know that there are many, many businesses, venues, and cultural hubs present throughout the county. Think of any art exhibits, museums, concerts, restaurants, bars/wineries, shops, etc., that you have been to in the last year in Las Cruces where you experienced the culture of this place.
One can even recall simple things, like going to the Farmer’s Market, or seeing local art on the wall of a local restaurant, or eating green chile grown in our county, or climbing Tortugas Mountain, or lighting up at the sight of a mural you never realized was on that wall…
People here care about local art and cultural experiences; we crave it.
Now, a quick anecdote from my teenage years in Las Cruces:
Everyone my age could not wait “to get out of here.” Opportunity and culture seemed greater everywhere else. I, too, had romantic dreams of moving to some well-known, cultured city like San Francisco, or New York City, or Santa Fe, or anywhere but here.
Yet, by the time I was choosing where to go to college, I decided to work hard at getting the education I wanted — no matter where I was — and I accepted the full scholarship awarded to me by New Mexico State University.
A month into my first semester of college, I was thinking about the distinctive culture of our area while driving home one night. Two blocks away from my childhood home, I suddenly started crying — tears of joy and inspiration — at the realization that I loved this place — everything about us as a people and the land that surrounds us, the crops we grow and the food we eat, the ways we spend our time and the massive amount of exceptional cultural activity here.
I have been grateful every day of the 12 years since then that I decided to stay here for college (and what’s more, that my parents raised me here). I have watched — and have done my small part in helping — the Las Cruces art scene flourish in that time. Now that I am two years into taking the big risk at being a full-time artist, I am happier than ever to call this community my home and workspace.
And I am not the only artist who feels this way: every artist, musician, writer, etc., who I know here is completely passionate about Las Cruces. We are working so hard to show the world that we have a wonderful thing going in this place.
In conclusion, I am writing this article to ask every Las Cruces citizen to recognize the amazing creativity going on all around the area; support the cultural activities, venues, and artists here; and revel in the fact that we are like nowhere else on Earth, and we don’t have to try to be like anywhere else but here.
Yes, I support the city in its endeavors to help the arts thrive in Las Cruces, so long as we remember that when we define a certain section of the city as being “cultural,” we imply that the other areas are lacking in culture. If we are going to define an Arts and Culture District, let us first acknowledge that the scene here is large and diverse, that it cannot be contained within the confines of one section of the city, and that we will do our best when we allow what makes us special to shine.
Yes, our city needs more and more cultural venues, but let us also nourish the ones that are already in place for fear of losing important cultural assets (like the recently closed West End Art Depot). Most of all, let’s be grateful to be here, in this place, in this time, working hard together to make the world a better place.
If you have an opinion on the future of the arts in Las Cruces, I urge you to make your voice heard to the City of Las Cruces and the Downtown Las Cruces Partnership. This is an important conversation for our community to have, and it is wonderful that city leaders are asking everyone for help and feedback. The future of the arts in Las Cruces goes hand-in-hand with the future of the economy in Las Cruces.
Meg G. Freyermuth is a full-time artist, musician, writer, gardener, explorer, and volunteer from Las Cruces. Her paintings and drawings are focused on the landscapes and wilderness of the United States, primarily in the Southwest, where the sublime beauty of the desert constantly fascinates her.