NMSU branding

New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

News Center


Search News Center Articles





NMSU art project tells the stories of Las Cruces’ neighborhoods

A joint art-preservation project between the Departments of History, Art and Anthropology at New Mexico State University is gearing up to launch a new website, www.muralsoflascruces.com, containing pictures and descriptions of murals around Las Cruces.



The team of Murals of Las Cruces project, from left, Peter Kopp, Anne Quinones, Norma Hartell, Jerry Wallace and Meg Freyermuth pose for a photo in front the 2015 mural “All Between Land & Air” in downtown Las Cruces. Mural of Las Cruces is a joint art-preservation project between the Departments of History, Art and Anthropology at New Mexico State University conceived to document murals around Las Cruces. (NMSU photo by Andres Leighton)

Murals of Las Cruces was initially a project conceived by Jason Weisensell, a graduate student in history at NMSU, who was documenting murals made during the Great Depression under the federal Work Progress Administration. Norma Hartell, formerly an anthropology student at NMSU, was documenting art in Las Cruces and interviewing their artists.

Both Hartell and Weisensell were in a public history seminar taught by Peter Kopp, associate professor of history and director of NMSU’s public history program, in spring 2015.

“I loved their project so much that I wanted to join them,” Kopp said.

In summer 2015 Kopp, Hartell and Weisensell recruited both community members and NMSU students to further work on the project.

“All of us went literally every weekend driving around Las Cruces, documenting and photographing murals,” Hartell said.

The project divides Las Cruces’ murals into different neighborhoods, many of which have distinctive elements in their murals. These neighborhoods include Alameda, Mesquite and Tortugas.

“These murals tell the story of the neighborhoods they’re in,” Kopp said.

Kopp said the project, which is a database of murals in Las Cruces, is based at times on crowdsourcing information.

“If we have a mural that we don’t know much about, we post the picture on Facebook and a lot of the artists comment, ‘I did this in this year, its title is this,’” Kopp said. “So what started as this intellectual project in the classroom has become this community project that people outside the university can contribute to and engage with the university.”

This aspect of the project expands its scope from being only an NMSU-based project to a community-based project, Kopp said.

Kopp said the project defines a public mural as a two-dimensional piece of original artwork visible in the public right of way.

“Las Cruces has this interesting art form that’s different from Santa Fe, that’s different from Albuquerque, that’s different even from El Paso,” he said.

Many of Las Cruces’ murals depict the Organ Mountains and the natural landscape, Hartell said, a reflection of the agricultural industry’s importance to the city’s history.

“There’s also a lot of religious icons in these murals and many of the murals are meant for beautification,” Kopp said. “How do you make a brown wall beautiful? Put a mural on it.”