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NMSU exhibit ‘Las Cruces Creates’ reveals finished artwork, reflects community

It started last semester with an idea to make the Las Cruces community a part of the university. The University Art Gallery at New Mexico State University invited more than 20 local artists to show their work and invited community members to join together, weaving piles of donated clothing into a work of art. With threads of time and tradition, artists and members of the public have helped to create a tapestry reflecting Las Cruces. The gallery named the exhibit “Las Cruces Creates.”

Visiting artist John Garrett leads a weaving class at NMSU’s University Art Gallery. (Photo by Isabel Rodriguez)

Petals by John Garrett, made out of aluminum wire, nickel, wire, beads and recycled plastic picnic ware. (Photo by Isabel Rodriguez)

Day Book Project by artist Joshua Rose, part of the “Las Cruces Creates” exhibition at the University Art Gallery. (Photo by Isabel Rodriguez)

“This exhibit demonstrates wonderful grassroots community engagement,” said Christa Slaton, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “I am so pleased with the creativity and sense of civic pride that director Marisa Sage has shown us through her leadership in reaching out to make the Las Cruces community part of the gallery.”

Visiting artist John Garrett led the “Community Weave” project, which began Jan. 16. He invited members of the community to donate articles of clothing and asked the people of Las Cruces to help him weave the pieces into a work of art at least 9 feet square.

Garrett will reveal the results of that collaboration and give a talk at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 26 at NMSU’s University Art Gallery at 1390 University Avenue.

“I like the metaphors that come with weaving that you can combine weak materials with strong materials,” said Garrett, who grew up in Las Cruces and took his first weaving class in 1970. “I like the metaphor of creating a whole fabric out of bits and pieces, just like we create society out of different kinds of people.

“We’ve had students and retired people coming in. No matter what level people participate at – whether they’re donating or learning – that’s one way of creating community.”

Dozens of people contributed clothing for use in the project.

Heather Pollard, a volunteer at La Tienda de Jardin and a member of the College of Arts and Sciences dean’s advisory council, arranged for the store to donate several bags of knit wear to the community weave. The store is a ladies’ boutique in Las Cruces that sells gently used clothing, jewelry and other items. Proceeds benefit the programs and services offered by Jardin de los Ninos, a child-care center for homeless and near homeless children in Las Cruces.

“I think this community weave is a unique opportunity for the art department to interact with the community, and it’s a great opportunity for Jardin de los Ninos to show its support,” Pollard said. “I’m glad some things we can’t use in the store can be recycled into art forms.”

The scope of “Las Cruces Creates” is broad, ranging from large interactive installations, to multi-dimensional abstractions, to compositions with poetic visions of the everyday. Sage visited studios across Las Cruces to bring together works for the show from artists Chris Bardey, Nancy Begin, Karen Bucher, Sharbani Das Gupta, Greg Decker, Carlos Estrada-Vega, Stephen Hansen, Amanda Jaffe, Suzanne Kane, Robin Labe, Rosemary McLoughlin, Brack Morrow, Louis Ocepek, Mary Robertson, Joshua Rose, Jesse Reinhard, Jacklyn St. Aubyn, Isadora Stowe, Jean Reece Wilkey and Mary Wolf.

“You start to see that the show is a big weave of these different artists in this community,” Sage said. “You can see the show is connected by color and recurring themes within each artists’ work.”

The “Las Cruces Creates” exhibit runs through Feb. 28. Events hosted at the gallery in conjunction with the show also include: the “Collaborate with Your Kids” workshop from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21, with artist Isadora Stowe and a gallery talk with visiting artist and author Peter Turchi at 3 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27.

“One of the things I hope is that people feel they can come into this gallery and see artists within their community and that they can become part of that,” Sage said. “I want people to start thinking of this gallery as a place that serves them. I want them to come in and see artists who are here, working here. They’re making this community a vibrant and exciting one. Some of the artists have been working in this area for over 20 years.”