Thursday, December 23, 2010

Relax and enjoy a few silent nights

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — After the holiday stretch of FTFS (Full-Tilt Fiesta Season), things quiet down around this time of year.
It’s been a great year for fiestas throughout the state, especially in our part, FTFS ground zero. Winterfest and its spin-off progeny, Winterfest II: La Fiesta de Las Luminarias, are behind us now, part of a holiday superweekend that included the debut of La Casa Bazaar in its new Las Cruces Convention Center location.
A Saturday pilgrimage date this year and balmy December weather made Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrations one for the book. Many concerts, art shows and exhibits, and traditional plays and pageants are history now, along with luminaria displays from the shores of Elephant Butte Lake to the village of Doña Ana, the streets and lanes of NMSU and finally, Christmas Eve on the Mesilla Plaza.
Now, the (relatively) silent nights begin. This week is a time for family in the Mesilla Valley.
Play with your presents. Write thank you notes.
Eat leftovers, then plan some walks around the neighborhood to see the lights and decorations or head for the fitness center to lift some weights, swim some laps and work some of it off.
Next week is New Year’s resolution time and maybe this is a time to hold the line, catch up on your naps and make the make the best of what’s left of 2010.
I figure I’ll feel a little better about that Jan. 1 weigh-in if I pile that leftover turkey on a bed of mixed greens or in a veggie stir-fry or soup instead of in a triple-decker sandwich or what I really want, green chile turkey enchilada casserole.
Still, It’s hard to feel too deprived the week after Christmas, after a month of treats that seem to appear mysteriously upon plates, despite your best efforts.
It’s a good time to ponder where you’ve come from, where you’ve been and where you hope to go. Without the pressure of those holiday newsletters, it’s more comfortable to take a honest inventory and ponder some fresh starts and course corrections.
I haven’t seen many studies about office productivity in late December, but unless you’re working the returns desk at a major shopping center, probably things aren’t really hopping for you.
Even in some of the highest stress, 24-7 deadline professions, from law enforcement to medicine to, yes, journalism, things seem a little more laid back this time of year, and real crises, if they happen, have a surreal sense. Even amid violence, tragedy and mayhem, there’s a lingering, if sometimes wistful, sense that peace on earth and good will toward men might just be possible, somewhere, someday, somehow.
When I started asking people about their resolutions for 2011, I was surprised to find that many people told me they were thankful just to be here and hoped to get through another year.
It’s apt that the symbols for the changing of calendar years are an elderly guy and a newborn. Even if we’ve had a pretty good time, all in all, we’re weary of 2010 and ready for a bouncing baby 2011.
Those of us who are parents and grandparents may not be able to entirely suppress the knowledge derived from long experience. With that new hope and fresh start also come diaper changes, feedings, demanding cries and other assorted around-the-clock responsibilities.
Still, there’s something appealing and very human about the chance to see life and the weary world through new eyes, with a fresh prospective.
I hope you and your loved ones enjoy the last of 2010 and have a chance to make plans and savor hopes for a wonderful 2011.
Happy New Year.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas creativity

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — The spirituality of Christmas is what means most to me. No matter how hot the hype and siren lure of commercialism, it’s really about love, hope, faith and the joy and promise of new beginnings.
For me, and, I’d say, for my loved ones, the path to those joyful conclusions has had a lot to do with the creative journey.
I’ve known times both lean and lush and I’ve been fortunate to get some pretty opulent gifts over the years, including things I really, really wanted.
I can remember the sensation of yearning and that it was sometimes fulfilled, but I’m hazier on just what those highly coveted gifts were.
What I remember most vividly are the creative components of Christmas.
Music fills my Christmas memory bank. There were the songs I sang with my family on car trips to visit my grandparents or snowy treks to our riverfront acreage in northern Michigan, where we often sang while choosing, cutting and dragging back a scraggy white pine in the dense forest.
Then there were the more elaborate arrangements in school bands and choirs. I still remember first time I heard “O Holy Night,” and the milagro tingles it sent up and down my spine, along with the day our maturing high school choir finally had the skills to get those powerful chords and crescendos right.
But equally impressive were the first times I heard my son — and then my grandson — warble their childhood renditions of “Jingle Bells” and “Silent Night.”
Not a dry eye in the house.
My sense memory banks are filed with the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas kitchens. More singing. The feel of gooey dough stiffened by just enough flower to prepare it for our holiday cookie cutters. The smells of dates and cinnamon and peppermint and gingerbread. The sights of bright neon sprinkles, raisin eyes on snowmen and reindeer confections.
Decking the halls has always been a sure route to Christmas sprit and major memories. Ornaments seemed more precious and rare in the old school days. We cherished the heirlooms and debated just where to and how to position the lighted angel, our personal fave. But making decorations was even more rewarding: strings of popcorn, clove-studded oranges and the loops of colored paper that we hung on the tree, with an extra chain of 25 loops to hang by our bed and tear off each day until the magic date arrived.
There were the Christmas literary traditions: Santa tales told and read by dads and granddads, with more exotic permutations in Charlie Brown TV specials and holiday movies.
The real Christmas story somehow always came through, in some fusion of song, literature and hall-decking, in celebrations in church, home, schools and shopping centers.
The crèches always offered a creative touch, too. At the top of my memory smorgasbord are the annual arrangements of a little carved stone nativity set I shared with grandson Alexander the Great during his Las Cruces years, ages 3 to 10.
I told him the story of the little family and their journey to Bethlehem that first toddler year and a few years later, he was telling it to me. Some years, a few latter-day superheros and action figures joined the gathering and a sheep or horse sometimes ended up perching on the church and manger roofs with the angels, but I was surprised by how quickly he grasped the essence of what the holiday is all about.
Creativity and spirituality are a potent mixture.
It’s a smooth transcendent step to the most powerful fusion of all: love, hope, faith and miracles.
Have a creative holiday season with those you love.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450

Remember the troops on the holidays

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Peace on earth, goodwill toward men.
It’s sounding pretty good to me about now.
The morning e-mail included two shots of my toddler nephew’s first visit to Santa Claus. It came on the same day his dad was shipping off to Afghanistan.
In this long, long, war, just about all of us know someone who’s “over there.”
As a parent, grandparent and aunt, I mourn for all the moments those brave moms and dads will miss with their kids. First steps and sentences, first dances and days at school. Christmases. Birthdays. Sunday dinners and summer picnics.
We pray for their safety and their swift return. And a world that can somehow find alternatives to war before these kids grow up and have kids of their own.
In the meantime, you can brighten the holidays just a bit for servicemen and women far from home this year.
My brother, father of a recently deployed troop, has been researching procedures to ship off packages to his son and recommends visits to the post office for guidelines. He said he’s found helpful information on this toll-free number: 1-800-ASK-USPS (275-8777).
It’s worth some time to investigate procedures and be sure your have the exact address correctly written on all cards and packages, not just for the holidays, but year-around, when morale reportedly can take a leap or a nose dive, depending on the mail call harvest.
Another great resource is the Let’s Say Thanks program at, a web site that lets you send a free printed postcard to U.S. military personnel stationed overseas. You can’t specify who will get the card, but you can select your favorite designs from a touching assortment of cards created by children. The easy, three-step process continues by entering a message with your name and home town (write your own or choose a message that best expresses what you want to say from a group of suggestions). Then press send and you’re done.
You can also check out the site to see messages sent by others and the response from servicemen and women.
“Thank you for sending the postcards to our unit! While soldiers routinely grab all the snacks, toiletries, magazines and books out of care packages, it is the letters, cards and postcards with heartfelt messages that mean the most and truly remind us that the folks back home care and appreciate what we do,” said a military policeman.
Another, who signed as simply “a soldier,” sent “thanks for this outstanding effort to make our Military personnel feel a touch of home wherever they are. I have been deployed several times to various parts of the world. No matter what is going on around us, when we get encouraging words from home, it seems to make a difference that is beyond description. Something as simple as words. Something as common as a crayon drawing. These things can mean the world when you are a world away.”
Others said the colorful little postcards “made my day” and report that they read and share them with others.
It’s a big payoff for a free service that takes just a minute of your time and could make a world of difference for a soldier you may never meet.
You can also help out with a tax-deductible donation to the USO, which is “committed to supporting our troops wherever they serve — from free phone cards to care packages full of much- needed items and entertainment tours to just a simple hug,” according to That’s the source to donate online, or call 1-800-876-7469 or send a check, payable to USO to: USO, P.O. Box 96322, Washington, DC, 20090-6322.
And it’s always a good time to greet a soldier. When you see a man or woman in uniform, a pretty common sight in our military hub, even if you can’t get within handshake distance, you can make eye contact and pat your left hand on your heart to express your appreciation and support.
If you’re close enough, offer a verbal “thank you” and a handshake.
And your prayers and wishes for peace on earth.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Find and spread some seasonal joy

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — The hard part is done. From now on, it’s all tree trimming and candy canes, carols and gingerbread, reverence and pageantry, love and wonder. Blessings and joy.
I love the holidays and more than half a century amidst Scrooges, Grinches and seasonal depressives (some of them, alas, bah-humbugging in my own circle of loved ones) have not been able to beat it out of me.
I’ve learned to get most of my gift list filled by July and my presents wrapped and shipped off before Thanksgiving, thus avoiding my least favorite thing — shopping in frantic herds of stressed-out holiday hunter-gatherers.
I cut myself out of that bipolar (or is it North Polar?) herd and opted out of the madding throngs decades before it became a blood sport, with obsessive, acquisitive Olympic shopping kicking off on Black Friday. And no matter what the spin doctors say, I don’t believe for a moment that the “black” refers to the fact that merchants move their annual financial tallies out of the red and into the black profit margins that day.
I’ve worked retail during the holidays and I KNOW where the black references come from, and have weathered the black and blue bruises and moods that really inspired dour and punishing Friday’s moniker.
But all that’s behind me, now, and I hope it is for you, too, or will be soon.
Maybe this can be the year when you can streamline your gift list a little. I find many of my older relatives, especially those who live far away, are happy and relieved at suggestions to exchange e-mails and phone calls instead of hefty packages. I give priority to kids, people who’ve moved to new areas or who are having tough years or are prone to holiday blues.
More and more, I’m finding that close friends and relatives are happy to substitute visits or lunches or dinners for other gifts. Or we agree to make a bigger deal of gift-giving during birthdays, when we all seem to have more time for up-close-and-personal celebrations.
With some of the pressure off, we can find more time to enjoy the season, especially important, I’ve found, during years like this when work or economic issues prevent many of us from managing to gather with distant loved ones.
I make it a point to put as much light in my life as possible, stopping to witness every luminaria display I can. And every year, I try to catch at least one local pageant, concert or holiday event, particularly something I haven’t experienced before, pretty easy with an escalating amount of intriguing options in our territory.
This year, after seeing some inspiring YouTube videos, I’m working to field some guerrilla caroling groups. Jerry Ann Alt, director of NMSU Choirs, seems ready to rally for some random acts of Christmas culture. So don’t be too surprised if you find yourself in the middle of a “Hallelujah!” chorus when you least expect it. Actually, we hope you will be surprised. And delighted. And inspired to join in.
Start your own impromptu caroling group at home, at the office, in your neighborhood park or in line at the supermarket or post office. Recruit a friend or two and before you know it, you could be part of a caroling conga line.
Invite someone who will be alone over the holidays to join you and your friends and family for a brunch, lunch or dinner. Give to those less fortunate. If your budget is tight, give yourself. Volunteer to help. It’s a pretty reliable cure for the blues — theirs AND yours.
If you’re alone, make it a priority to get out and sign up for a holiday craft class or go to a seasonal fiesta, movie or concert. You could make a friend who’s looking for someone to enjoy a stroll or a drive to see the holiday lights and displays.
Whatever your beliefs or your resources, we can all use some joy this time of year.
Go to a church or synagogue or take a long walk on a sunny December day and ponder spiritual meanings of life, love, hope and new beginnings.
May the season bring you a bumper crop of joy and the wherewithal to spread it around.
Happy holidays.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Holidays in the Land of Enchantment

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — If you feel Scroogish about this merry season, it may be because you’ve never experienced the holidays in the Land of Enchantment.
Christmas in New Mexico is like nothing else on the planet. And Hanukah and Kwanzaa have their own special flavor here, too.
It’s time again for our annual milagro fusion of sacred rites that inspire joy with creative and touching Southwestern traditions that conjure up sentiments ranging from awe and wonder to amazed amusement.
Here are a few of my favorite Mesilla Valley holiday things.
La Posta’s tanks of piranhas decked with poinsettias. Rolling fields of fluffy white stuff that turns out to be not snow, but cotton harvest remnants. Hand-crafted snowguys (if we have a rare December snowstorm) with red chile noses. Giant roadrunner sculptures made out of recycled trash, glittering with twinkle lights. Ristras and reindeer sharing porch space. The glow of luminarias and the aroma of piñon fires.
Gathering with amigos on Christmas Eve on the Mesilla Plaza. Watching dancers in feather bonnets and Our Lady of Guadalupe tunics at Tortugas Pueblo. Yucca pod wreaths and tumbleweed Christmas trees.
There are some one-performance-only memories, like watching grandson Alexander the Great sing “The 12 Days of New Mexico Christmas” with his Hillrise Elementary school classmates. It’s a great production number and I hope they’re still doing it. If you get a chance to catch a local holiday school pageant, don’t miss it.
Then there’s the fun of figuring out the many ways red and green can make our season bright. I’m talking chiles here. I learned to make (and appreciate) homemade holiday tamales at Denise Chávez’s workshop with the Grijalva family at La Cochina Restaurant. At Carmen Garza’s house one Christmas, I was introduced to the wonder of turkey and mashed potatoes with red chile gravy. (I contributed my own holiday chile invention: cranberry-green chile sauce.)
I’ve seen new traditions born and old traditions revived, like La Posada on the Downtown Mall. Amigos who grew up here told me it’s like a Christmas version of trick or treat. As kids, they went from house to house asking if there was room at the inn, and were rewarded with tamales and biscochitos and all kinds of goodies.
In recent years, La Posada and gone public on the Downtown Mall, sometimes with a Holy Family, a donkey borrowed from the Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum, and singing followed by goodies and a piñata.
“Los Pastores” plays, an ancient ritual with deep roots in the Mesilla Valley, were started here half a century ago by a group of Mesilla families who are determined to keep it alive.
For me, Mesilla is the corazon of celebrations both transcendent and sometimes, a bit eccentric. (The aforementioned holiday piranhas at La Posta, for instance, and our favorite outlaw keeping vigil with his trusty gun under a lovely nativity scene perched on the roof of the Billy the Kid Gift Shop.)
The late, great Josefina Gamboa Biel is credited with starting Mesilla’s tradition of luminarias, carols and drinks on the Mesilla Plaza on Christmas Eve. It’s one of the most wonderful ways to spend Dec. 24 to be found anywhere on the planet, in my opinion. Josefina’s daughter, Kathleen Foreman, transformed her late mom’s adobe home into one of the region’s loveliest lunch and tea rooms where the famed Josefina’s Gate remains a favorite gathering sport for holiday photos.
And now we have Christmas SuperFriday and Winterfest, which debuted a few years ago and demonstrated what a delight our downtown area can become.
Catch as much as you can of this enchanted season in our enchanted land. Happy holidays.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

I'm thankful for...

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — For many of us, this has been a very tough year. There have been mysterious illnesses, continuing wars, disastrous environmental accidents and catastrophes and some difficult unemployment and economic issues.
This year, most everyone seems to know someone who has been personally touched by Borderland violence, or even suffered the death of someone they know, in Juárez, our Borderland neighbor that has been termed the murder capital of the world.
I have many friends and relatives with American Indian roots who have never been too thrilled about celebrating Thanksgiving, when they ponder the consequences of that original generosity to desperate newcomers.
They find more truth than comedy in Jon Stewart’s caustic quip: “I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.”
When I think of Thanksgiving 2010, the first thing that came to mind was a quote from my spiritual mentor Tenny Hale: “Ah, for an unmixed blessing for once.”
When blessings seem hardest to find is the time we need to work hardest on our attitudes of gratitude.
I started with simple things, in my own neighborhood. For instance, I know many Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market vendors were sad to vacate their old Downtown Mall site, but the market seems to be better than ever, ranking high in polls and growing.
I’m sad that my favorite downtown tree seems destined for destruction, but I was happy to see so many citizens speaking up for our leafy green amigos. I’m glad to see a city commitment to plant and transplant so many trees in the downtown area.
And I was heartened by Flo Hosa Dougherty’s campaign to make something beautiful out of her favorite Chinese pistache, which met the ax during the current phase of downtown renovations. Stop by Blue Gate Gallery and see the tree’s lovely wood, resurrected as everything from jewelry to furniture and a bear sculpture.
Musician, singer-songwriter and wood artisan Eddy Harrison is even crafting a guitar. Maybe we can recruit talented souls to create wooden flutes, drums and other instruments and end up with a whole band or orchestra. Our desert hills could be alive with the sounds of Chinese pistache music for generations to come.
This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful I live in a community of inventive souls like Flo and talented artists who help express her creative vision.
Though it’s been a challenging year, I’ve found that every time I started to work up enthusiastic complaints, the universe delivered someone who severely outclassed me in the misery department.
That old line, “I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet,” came to mind a lot.
Actually, I have lots of shoes. More than I need, I realized, and felt better after I gave some of them away to worthy causes.
In fact, though times are still tough, they’re improving, and in the worst of times, most of us have rather high-class worries compared to the rest of the world.
This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful that most of my loved ones are still alive and are finding creative ways to heal and help others. I’m thankful I got to know and spend time with some wonderful souls who have since moved on to other realms.
I’m grateful to live in America in general and milagro-filled Las Cruces in particular.
I’m pleased that the more I count my blessings, the more I find to count.
And when it comes time for eloquent sentiments on turkey day, I’m going to remember Meister Eckhart’s simple but powerful advice: “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”
Thank you. And happy Thanksgiving.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Las Cruces art scene is hopping

New galleries join art scene
By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — If you’re new to Las Cruces, you might think that Full-tilt Fiesta Season is drawing to a close. But stay tuned for a fun-filled December—and a burgeoning year-round art scene.
It’s true we’ve had an action-packed fall, from the traditional favorites like the Deming Duck Races and Labor Day fiestas to The Whole Enchilada Fiesta, Dia de los Muertos, Diez y Seis de Septiembre, Día de los Muertos, the Renaissance ArtsFaire and newcomers like the new Plein Aire Festival and the SalsaFest, now in its second year.
And if we had to call it, I’d say that this is the year artshops really came of age.
When I arrived in 1994, the annual Doña Ana Arts Council ArtsHop was just starting, and it was pretty much the only game in the territory. Now it’s spun off into a festival (DAAC’s Color Las Cruces Plein Aire Competition and Community Arts Festival) and the Downtown Ramble, the first Friday of each month. And now we have this year’s newcomer: Camino del Arte Tour, a second Saturday of each month tour of as many as 10 galleries and studios (many of them brand new in 2010) and 10 restaurants in the historic Mesquite Street District.
In addition, there are annual For the Love of Art Month studio tour weekends, and artists Georjeanna Feltha and Ouida Touchon have coordinated two more annual downtown artists’ studio tours in the spring and fall which attract a growing number of artists, studios and art fans.
Any artist who complains there’s no place to show work here just hasn’t been paying attention.
Despite tough economic times, our roster of galleries continues to grow, especially when it comes to artists’ co-ops.
Mesilla, which once had just one plaza-area artists’ cooperative gallery, Mesilla Valley Fine Arts, now boasts three co-ops, with the addition of Los Artesanos Galeria and Art Galaxy.
The Border Book Festival Foundation and its headquarters, which has always nurtured artists and craftspeople, as well as authors, has branched out to add Galeria Tepin.
There will soon be two new additions to the Mercado de Mesilla complex, home of the Preston Contemporary Art Center, which has attracted national attention and offered a venue for top international, national and regional artists during its brief history.
The late Ben Boldt envisioned the Mercado (itself an artistic achievement, thanks to the design of sculptor Kelley Hestir) as a little art mecca, maybe with some “mom and pop” artists living in or above galleries in the complex.
Reinforcing that vision will be and Mitch Alamag’s ROKOKO Kosmic Soul Kaboom Studio & Gallery, slated to open by spring.
And Carolyn and Henry Bunch will soon open a gallery (their fourth in the Mesilla Valley) at the Mercado.
“We tossed a lot of names around and finally returned the one we used before: The Adobe Patio Gallery and Studio,” said Carolyn.
They hope to open in late November or early December.
The Mott family are also back. Many of us remember their PK studios on Alameda. Now artist Kate, daughter Padma, and Kate’s potter husband Russell have opened MVS Studios near the Branigan Cultural Center.
M. Phillips Gallery and Justus Wright Galeria have moved from their original sites to reopen in bigger and more interesting downtown locations.
Many area shops and restaurants, some inspired by participation in February for the Love of Art Month exhibits, have become art venues themselves, rotating year-round exhibitions.
And brand new galleries seem to be opening all the time. David Jacquez just opened Jardín de las Cruces, 4010 N. Valley Drive, with a group show Nov. 6.
Watch for more soon. Arts are hopping in Las Cruces.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Visiting the aspen light shows

By S. Derrickson Moore
“This is a REAL light show,” said my soulmate Dr. Roger, as we journeyed through patches of golden aspens in the hills and valleys and mountains of Northern New Mexico.
Autumn could be the best time to visit Northern New Mexico and this is a particularly spectacular fall. In late October, many of my favorite summer flowers — including big, beautiful stands of cosmos — were still in bloom and it was pretty close to prime time for those amazing Aspens.
No photographs I’ve ever seen can really capture their brilliant and ethereal beauty, and I’m not sure words can describe them, but I’ll give it a shot.
You’ll find them glowing In fields of fading green, on gray and rosy mountain tops, in a serene river valley by an isolated monastery, and within familiar Abiquiu vistas etched on the brains of fans of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings.
Mysteriously backlit with powerful luminosity, even when the day is rainy and overcast, the aspens radiate an ebullient, big yellow joy. They’re an annual surprise that never gets old.
There’s gold in them thar hills.
We found them at Pecos Benedictine Monastery near Pecos, an easy afternoon trip about 25 miles east of Santa Fe, within a thousand serene acres in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, anointed with ponds and a winding stretch of the Pecos River.
We explored an autumn wonderland to discover a bridge linked to an island with flowering bushes, and on a quiet riverfront path, we came upon the “Hosanna Madonna,” a deeply moving rustic statue of an exuberant mother lifting her holy child skyward, showing him to the heavens.
We saw them on daily explorations from our home base at Santa Fe’s newly renovated St. Francis Hotel, when we set off on short strolls to the Santa Fe Plaza and longer hikes down Canyon Road and through the trendy railroad district.
We found bursts of them in the thoughtfully designed and lovely eco-friendly landscaping at El Monte Sagrado Resort in Taos.
A few early fliers swirled in golden gusts as we wandered paths by the resort’s streams and waterfalls and walked through the Taos Plaza and visited galleries on Ledoux Street.
I’ll be writing more about adventures in Northern New Mexico in coming weeks.
Santa Fe’s special 400th anniversary celebrations are coming to a close, but it’s hard to imagine a better time to celebrate the City Different’s unique beauties.
The tourist jams have abated a bit. The skies are that crisp autumn-winter New Mexico lapis lazuli. Bargains abound in everything from arts and crafts to clothing, home accessories and meals and lodging.
You can plan your own quadracentennial homage to Santa Fe: 1610-2010 with a self-guided tour of the New Mexico History Museum and historic sites and buildings on and around the Santa Fe Plaza.
It’s always fun to put together your own fall picnic. Visit the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Saturdays in the Santa Fe Railyard. It’s not as big or well-stocked as ours (they were voted No. 2 in the state in the same poll that ranks the Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts market No. 1 in New Mexico), but it’s a market with style and tasty treats.
Stop by Kaune’s Market, on Old Santa Fe Trail for some gourmet goodies. Or fill your picnic basket at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, located close enough to one another to make buffet comparison shopping easy.
And if you hurry, you might still be able to catch the last of the aspens, the best autumn light show in the state.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450

Friday, October 29, 2010

Quest for the perfect costume

LAS CRUCES — It’s that time of year again, when all patriotic Las Crucens suit up for Full-Tilt Costume Fiesta Season (FTCFS).
This year, the pressure has been on for both sprints and marathons.
Dia de los Muertos events started with two, count ‘em TWO — Frida Kahlo look-alike contests on the same day and stretched on to include a costume ball, plus this weekend’s Dia de los Muertos festivities on the Mesilla Plaza. One of those days is, of course, Halloween. Then there’s the dusk Day of the Dead procession on Tuesday, for which it is traditional to dress up, perhaps as your favorite difunto (deceased loved one), and bring musical instruments and noisemakers. This year, the procession falls on election day. Don’t forget to vote and we hope you won’t be in mourning for your favorite candidates the next morning.
Then, or course, there’s next weekend’s Renaissance ArtsFaire, which is not the same weekend as Dead Day fiestas this year, as sometimes happens.
That’s probably good news for costume marathoners, but not so hot for sprinters, who enjoy the adrenaline rush of suiting up appropriately for a variety of parties, fiestas, ceremonies and, on double-booked occasions, fly-bys.
Speaking of which, angels and ghosts are appropriate for all our dress-up occasions, and if you’re trying to simplify your costumed life, it’s always good to get back to the basics.
In recent years, I’ve gone the angel route. I have a couple of flowing white robes that I never seem to wear any time else, and they don’t take much space in my overstuffed costume closet.
It’s filled with costumes and accessories from my pre-Minimalist days. The mask section ranges from crow beaks and glow-in-the-dark ET faces to a large Dilbert head and a nice King Tut. (That one came in handy for the Branigan’s Egyptian exhibit a couple of years ago.)
There’s a whole section devoted to wizardry, which I once thought might be the answer to the universally appropriate costume quest. There are star-spangled robes, wands, and assorted wizard hats — great hits for matching gram and grandson Harry Potter soirees, when grandson Alex the Great was in residence.
Wizards were OK for Halloween and RenFaire, where I’ve picked up some spectacular bubble wands over the years. But the hats were hot and blew off at windy outdoor fiestas. And no matter how much magic attitude I tried to conjure, wizards never seemed quite right for Día de los Muertos occasions.
I think the angel is the best bet, though I’m still searching for the perfect wings, which would be soft, bendable, hypoallergenic, non-shedding and super comfy. In an ideal world (which, let’s face it, this isn’t, or what’s a heaven for?) I’d be able to retract and unfurl my wings at will, perhaps with a handy remote control device.
In the meantime, I take them off for car trips and seek out party occasions where I can remain standing or hang out on backless benches or other angel-friendly perches.
I don’t worry about storage for my favorite pair, which has a wingspan of about 6 feet. They hang on my living room wall, where they remain a focal point through FTCFS and on through Christmas, and a topic of conversation during the rest of the year.
I’m still working on display ideas for my halo collection, which includes bendable headband high-rise versions and an ethereal, gauzy, easy-on circlet I picked up last year at a RenFaire booth.
It’s easy to customize my basic angel ensemble for any and all FTCFS needs. Last year, I paper-clipped a “PRESS” card to my halo for an office party, pulled a black-and-white skeleton T-shirt over my robe for Dia de los Muertos, added a garland of small flowers for RenFaire and pondered stacking a halo atop a sombrero for the Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference’s Parque Festival. I just picked up a fun flashing-lights-and-sound gun at a costume store, so I plan to be futuristic avenging angel for Halloween.
The possible variations are endless. Maybe next year I'll add a black wig and a unibrow and enter a look-alike contest as the ghost of Frida Kahlo.
I’ve been around the FTCFS block and I’m here to tell you, it’s the perfect, all-season, all-star costume choice.
Angels, after all, are always appropriate.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Vampire wars

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Vampires seem to be in season year-round these days, but this is a particularly good time of year to contemplate the great sisterly vampire wars of 2010.
Forget team Edward vs. Team Jacob.
For my sister Sally and me, it comes down to Team Sookie vs. Team Bella. If you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past decade, or more likely, out in the bright sunshine away from any news of vampire literature, you may have no idea what I'm talking about. Bella is the heroine of Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series, basis for a hot movie franchise. Sookie is the mainstay of Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels, which inspired an HBO series.
Our differing vampire preferences may seem strange in sisters with nearly identical voices and tastes so similar that, even living and shopping in locales thousands of miles apart, we've often managed to give each other identical Christmas presents as esoteric as Guatemalan hand-woven patchwork tote bags.
But then again, there are some differences. Sally likes smokin' bad boys, big bowls of peel 'n eat shrimp and the smell of the ocean at low tide. I'm more partial to health-conscious, spiritually inclined guys with doctoral degrees and cowboy boots, green chile and cilantro, and the fresh aroma of ozone during a lightning storm.
So maybe it isn't so surprising that Floridian Sally likes Deep South Sookie and I'm fonder of Bella, whose primary homes are in the Pacific Northwest and the Southwest, where I've spent most of my adult life.
We could have endless debates about which heroine and which vampires are most admirable.
Bella, though she isn’t adverse to a close friendship with a werewolf/shapeshifter and doesn't appear to care if her daughter marries one, is a one-vampire woman. And whatta vampire!
Edward is a “vegetarian” vampire (which means he dines on free-range wildlife rather than humans) and lives with a close-knit family of humanitarians who use their superpowers for good and healing and fret over the state of their souls (and whether they have any). Bella wants to become a vampire mainly because it can mean a very long run with her soulmate and the love of her life. Bella’s unique superpower, pre- and post-vampirism, is to shield her thoughts and her loved ones.
I wouldn't call Sookie a supernatural slut, but she is a rather bewildered soul who has had long-term relationships with a couple of vampires and seriously dated a few werewolves and shapeshifters and is especially fond of the human/collie who owns the bar where she works.
Sookie has had trouble coming to terms with her superpower, the ability to read the minds of humans, but not vampires, in whose company she therefore finds some degree of peace, except, of course, for all the vampire violence and shenanigans. Eventually, Sookie discovers she is descended from a fairy (as in Tinkerbell) ancestor, a heritage that apparently heightens her appeal for vampires.
I love both the Twilight books and movies and concede that the Sookie books are page-turners, too, but the extreme and icky violence has dissuaded me from watching the TV series, "True Blood" (named for the synthetic blood developed by the Japanese that enabled the vampires in Sookie’s world to go public and hang out in blood bars).
Sally and I can agree that both series are well-written, and I'm grateful that Sally's Sookie partisanship has introduced me to the other series by prolific author Harris. I'm enjoying working my way through her books, including her three other mystery series starring Harper Connelly, who is able to communicate with the dead after being struck by lightning, smart Southern Belle librarian Aurora Teagarden, and crime-victim-turned-karate-aficionado Lily Bard, who leaves her upscale professional life to clean houses (and become an inadvertent crime-fighter) in a small Arkansas town.
Hmm. It takes all kinds — of humans, pixies, werewolves, vampires, crime-fighting heroes and other assorted critters — to make our big, wild, imaginative world. This is a great season to treat yourself to a good, perspective-stretching, original read.
Happy Halloween — and viva la difference!

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Día de los Muertos 101: A guide to Day of the Dead customs, terms and traditions

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Día de los Muertos has been called “a day when heaven and earth meet” and “a celebration of lives well lived.”
In Las Cruces, Mesilla and throughout the region, it has become a beloved tradition, a time when Borderland cultures blend, showcasing and sometimes creatively combining Spanish, Mexican, American Indian and Anglo customs and beliefs.
Día De Los Muertos “is not a morbid holiday but a festive remembrance of Los Angelitos (children) and all souls (Los Difuntos),” according to a statement from the Calavera Coalition of Mesilla. “This celebration originated with the indigenous people of the American continent, the Aztec, Mayan, Toltec and the Inca. Now, many of the festivities have been transformed from their original pre-Hispanic origins. It is still celebrated throughout North America among Native American tribes. The Spanish arrived and they altered the celebration to coincide with the Catholic celebrations of All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls Day (Nov. 2).”
Continuing an annual Las Cruces Style tradition, here is a guide to some important terms and concepts relating to Day of the Dead celebrations, collected during 17 years of commemorations.
alfeñique: Molded sugar figures used in altars for the dead.
ancianos: Grandparents or elderly friends or relatives who have died; ancestors honored during the first (north) part of processions for Day of the Dead.
angelitos: Literally “little angels,” refers to departed children and babies, traditionally honored during the first day of celebrations, Nov. 1, and the third (south) part of processions honoring the dead.
anima sola: A lonely soul or spirit who died far from home or who is without amigos or relatives to take responsibility for its care.
calascas: Handmade skeleton figurines which display an active and joyful afterlife, such as musicians or skeleton brides and grooms in wedding finery.
calaveras: Skeletons, used in many ways for celebrations: bread and candies in the shape of skeletons are traditional, along with everything from small and large figures and decorations, skeleton head rattles, candles, masks, jewelry and T-shirts. It’s also the term for skull masks, often painted with bright colors and flowers and used in displays and worn in Day of the Dead processions.
literary calaveras: Poetic tributes written for departed loved ones or things mourned and/or as mock epitaphs.
Catrin and Catrina: Formally dressed couple, or bride and groom skeletons popularized by renowned graphic artist and political cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada.
copal: A fragrant resin from a Mexican tree used as incense, burned alone or mixed with sage in processions in honor of the dead.
Días de los Muertos: Days of the dead, usually celebrated on Oct. 31 through Nov. 2 (the official date for Day of the Dead) in conjunction with All Souls Days or Todos Santos, the Catholic Feast of All Saints. Various Borderland communities, including Las Cruces, have their own celebration schedules in October and November.
Difunto: Deceased soul, corpse, cadaver.
La Flaca: Nickname for the female death figure, also known as La Muerte.
Frida Kahlo: Mexican artist who collected objects related to the Day of the Dead. Her photo often appears in Día de los Muertos shrines or retablos.
Los Guerreros: Literally, “the warriors,” are dead fathers, husbands, brothers and sons honored in the final (east) stop in Dia De Los Muertos processions.
marigolds: In Mexico, marigolds, or “cempasuchil,” are officially known as the “flower of the dead.” The flowers are added to processional wreaths at each stop, with one blossom representing each departed soul being honored. Sometimes, marigold pedals are strewn from the cemetery to a house. Their pungent fragrance is said to help the spirits find their way back home. Mums and paper flowers are also used.
mariposas: Butterflies, and sometimes hummingbirds, appear with skeletons to symbolize the flight of the soul from the body to heaven.
masks: Carried or worn during processions and other activities, masks can range from white face paint to simple molded plaster or papier-maché creations or elaborate painted or carved versions that become family heirlooms.
Las Mujeres: The women who have died are honored during the second (west) stop of Day of the Dead processions. After names of dead mothers, daughters, sisters and friends are called and honored, it is traditional for the crowd to sing a song for the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Náhuatl poetry: Traditional odes dedicated to the subject of death, dating back to the pre-Columbian era.
ofrenda: Traditional altar where offerings such as flowers, clothing, food, photographs and objects loved by the departed are placed. The ofrenda may be constructed in the home — usually in the dining room — at a cemetery, or may be carried in a procession. The ofrenda base is usually an arch made of bent reeds. It is ornamented with special decorations, sometimes with heirlooms collected by families much like Christmas ornaments. Decorations may include skeleton figures, toys and musical instruments in addition to offerings for a specific loved one.
pan de muertos: Literally, “bread of the dead.” It is traditionally baked in the shape of a skull — calavera — and dusted with pink sugar. Here, local bakeries sometimes include red and green chile decorations.
papel picado: Decorations made of colored paper cut in intricate patterns.
Posada: José Guadalupe Posada, (1852-1913), the self-taught “printmaker to the people” and caricaturist was known for his whimsical calaveras, or skeletons, depicted wearing dapper clothes, playing instruments and otherwise nonchalantly conducting their everyday activities, sometimes riding on horse skeletons.
veladores: Professional mourners who help in the grief process in several ways, including candlelight vigils, prayers and with dramatic weeping and wailing.
Xolotlitzcuintle: Monster dog, sometimes depicted as a canine skeleton, sometimes as a Mexican hairless breed. Since pre-Columbian times, this Día de los Muertos doggy has, according to legend, been the departed’s friend, helping with the tests of the perilous crossing of the River Chiconauapan to Mictlan, the land of the dead.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Las Cruces Style keeps evolving

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Las Cruces style keeps evolving and just when I think I have a pretty good handle on our distinctive brand of panache, I have a couple of months that convince me that we just might be the global epicenter of innovation.
Some of the changes involve new twists on old favorites.
As I learned doing a Sept. 25 Mi Casa story on the Reynolds-Chávez-Fountain house, sometimes stylish souls born elsewhere, like Midwestern transplants Lori Miller and Len Gambrell, can have profound insights about enhancing — and dedication to preserving — Borderland style. Their renovations to the beloved 1860s, two-story adobe Territorial home and grounds is remarkable. Like settlers in the time of the home’s birth, they’ve gracefully merged their own heritage with vintage Mesilla style.
(And by the way, you city officials who balk at the challenges of preserving a single iconic Downtown Mall Chinese pistache tree, the couple have managed to transplant and preserve an entire small orchard of fruit and nut trees while renovating their pretty little acre.)
Sometimes, it’s a native son who travels the world and brings back some fresh ideas to contribute to the evolution of Las Cruces style. Check out today’s Artist of the Week profile of Michael Poncé. He grew up here and went off to live and study in San Francisco, New York and London, with exotic stopovers that have ranged from Kentucky to India, Australia and Hong Kong. I was amazed to see how gracefully he’s blended Pan-Cultural and Borderland influences in his art and downtown Las Cruces home. I can’t to see what he’s done in his new gallery, Michael Poncé Contemporary at 508 N. Mesquite St. Check it out from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday during the second monthly Camino del Arte tour of Mesquite historic district galleries and restaurants.
And speaking of stylish innovations, if you missed the first Camino tour, you’ll have more chances the second Saturday of each month at these locations: Gabriella Denton Studio, 403-B E. Court Ave., Unsettled Gallery & Studio, 905 N. Mesquite St., Mesquite Street Studios, 922 N. Mesquite St. Studios, Mesquite Art Gallery, 340 N. Mesquite St., Studio 308, No. 1, 308 N. Mesquite St., Nopalito’s Galeria, 326 S. Mesquite St., Joyce T. Macrorie Studio, 639 San Pedro St., New Dimension Artworks, 615-B E. Piñon Ave., Tony Pennock Studio, 721 N. Mesquite St. and Michael Poncé Contemporary, 508 N. Mesquite St.; plus 10 restaurants: Nopalito, La Nueva Casita, La Guadalupana, El Tiburon Mariscos, Kiva Patio Café, Tacos Santa Fe, Roberto’s, El Sombrero Patio Café, Church’s Chicken and Lujan Bakery.
I really enjoyed the first round, complete with a horse-drawn carriages, cosmopolitan artists and a transforming street that reminded me a lot of Albuquerque’s Old Town, with lots of people in the ‘hood for Camino, plus an event at Klein Park, and the first Color Las Cruces Plein Air Festival Community Art Festival.
I also ran into Las Cruces stylin’ trendsetter Bob Diven, making his own rogue plein air statement with a dinosaur chalk drawing on a Main Street sidewalk.
Now he says he’ll do some chalk art every Saturday morning during the Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market. See some samples of his street creatures at
And speaking of the market, LCF&CM ranked No. 1 in New Mexico and No. 9 in the nation for markets with more than 56 vendors in a nationwide poll, despite an unpopular move in a time when the most popular part of the Downtown Mall is thoroughly torn up for renovations. And the market is looking better than ever, which is kind of an impressive Ginger Rogers achievement. (Wags have noted that she did everything just as well as Fred Astaire did, and she managed to do it backward, in heels!)
No wonder Pendleton is naming blankets after us and furniture and home accessory makers are coming out with Las Cruces lines.
Ah, Las Cruces style.
We always had it. Always will.
And we keep getting better all the time.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

We want to save our tree!

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — We aren’t ready to say die when it comes to our favorite tree, that venerable old Chinese pistache on the Downtown Mall that city officials first seemed inclined to save and now say will likely be cut down in the next phase of downtown construction, as noted in my Sept. 12 Las Cruces Style column.
Many of you are fighting mad about their change of tune — and it’s clear that you have not had a change of heart — when it comes to sparing that special tree.
Once again, you wrote, e-mailed, called and stopped me on the Downtown Mall by the tree, a popular, shady place to congregate on hot market days.
Tamie Smith has even created a commemorative website with photos of all the trees that have been cut down on the Downtown Mall.
Listen up, powers that be: We want to save that tree and make arboreal rescues a top priority, now and in the future.
Here’s a sampling of what you had to say. For more, or to post your own comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.
Jean Bartels (a resident of Las Cruces for 44 years): “It’s unbelievable that the city, which already demolished trees on the yellow brick road for the current project, is thinking of doing the same with the tree at the south end. Thank goodness for the artists who are creating things of beauty out of the wood that was saved.
“I was going into the library the day the big gorgeous city Christmas tree was being cut down and, although I’d read in the paper that it was to happen, I could hardly believe my eyes and stood aghast. Only God can make a tree, but L.C. can certainly destroy. Put in a vote for me that the tree at the south end be left standing where it is!”
Jim Hayhoe: “I cannot agree with you more that we should do the engineering necessary to save the Main Street pistache tree. A tree such as this is worth several parking spots, especially in a Downtown area that IS YET to demonstrate the ability to attract patrons. If the city has any serious intention of thinking GREEN this is a way to show it to the area residents.”
Esther Matthews: “I disagree with Robert Ebler’s (the city’s senior civil engineer) statements regarding the Chinese pistache tree downtown. The 20 parking spaces may be business friendly, but not necessary. Customers prefer green shade and natural beauty. There is ample parking behind the buildings. When are ALL the spaces full? (Ebler said) It would cost $30,000 to $40,000 to design around it. That seems like nothing in the whole scheme of things. What percentage of that is compared to the whole cost, minus the cost of moving it?
“New trees won’t demand the same respect of this old, beautiful tree. It is also disheartening that government will sacrifice this tree against the wishes of its citizens, in the hope of more revenue.”
Mary Salais: “I am writing because I am concerned about the pistache tree at the south side of the Downtown Mall. It is near the Music Box. I want it to stay alive and not to be chopped down. It reminds me of a favorite childhood tree near the tennis courts on Picacho street that they chopped down and it made me very upset and sad not to see it there. I enjoyed the shade under the tree. It’s gone now and it’s been three years ago. I don’t want this to happen again. The tree is useful since we have very hot sunshine here.”
Jack Pumphrey: “For the life of me I can't understand the reasoning behind the decision to destroy one of the finest outdoor malls in the Southwest.
“The Farmers Market wasn't the only group to benefit from the absence of traffic and abundant shade. Visitors to Branigan Cultural Center, Coas, Big Picture, ABC Printing, Insta-Copy and so on, had a pleasant place to take a noon-day stroll, relax and meet friends, have a solo sack lunch and enjoy the shade of those (now) destroyed trees, planters and awnings.
“Now the powers that be are constructing a three-to-four-block long, two-way street with no parking with no possibility of shade in our lifetime. Why? If you can't stop the car and get out to shop, visit the galleries, dine in the new bistros or, have an espresso … Why?, Why?, WHY?
“And another thing, mark my words, the ‘up-town’ chic, roundabout will cause the city more grief than benefit. It’s going to be confusing enough just trying to figure out a good (any?) reason to drive up or down that obscure part of Main Street.
“I can see it now. Another car gets rear-ended from someone gawking at the new sidewalk restaurant and refurbished buildings. Or, running into one of those patina-green carriage poles while dodging jaywalkers! (Theater goers beware!)
“The best use, so far, is when the street is blocked off for special interest dinner parties and the Farmers Market. Huh? Isn't that what was destroyed? The use of a nice traffic-free open space?
“Now the paranoiacs/urban planners want to kill the last remaining elder-tree because it's too tough to figure out a positive solution? The tree is now a traffic hazard? Build the ‘road’ around it for the sense of what’s common and sane. Build a curving divided pretty lane around the tree. Construct pointy planters that face oncoming traffic and make it wide enough so emergency vehicles can make it through. It’s not as if there are going to be speed bumps to show down what sparse traffic that probably will be too light to justify stop lights. And finally: IT (the tree) would take away parking spaces? What parking places!
“Leaving the tree where it is will create a reason for driving the three or four blocks to accomplish … what?”
Tamie Smith: “Thanks for the tree article. Sad, isn’t it, that citizens can't trust the words of our elected and hired officials?
“At a couple of city council meetings before a date had been set for cutting down the large trees, I asked if I could be notified when that would be done. I was assured by the city manager and my councilor that someone would let me know. Right! (They didn’t notify me.)”
NOTE: To see Tamie’s website with “a few assorted pictures of the trees we used to have,” go to
I checked out the site and had trouble understanding how curving around the tree would eliminate 20 parking places. But if so, so what? I have yet to see anything close to 20 cars parked on the “finished” downtown block.
And don’t give up the fight. I’ll send these comments on to Mayor Ken Miyagishima at If you’d like to save the tree, let our mayor and city council know.
Here are some letters that came in after our deadline.
Diana Ayers: “The city might take a closer look at what makes a place desirable. Plantings, natural or exotic, attract folks; hot parking lots do not.
“I was stunned to see that the city had cut down that stately pine which had been Las Cruces's Christmas Tree. What other city would let that go by without challenge? What other city of any reputation has no tree ordinances?
“Of course it would be a little bit harder to route the road around the pistache, but what is the point to making it straight? If this exercise is being done in the name of commerce, the merchants certainly won't benefit by traffic's zooming through.
“There is parking everywhere already, and many existing businesses have rear entrances. Patrons of the museums and galleries aren't going to resent walking around the corner, as presumably they are drawn by esthetics in the first place.
“What the place could use is some sidewalk cafes, such as occur as magnets everywhere else. But diners don't want to stare at parked cars (or moving ones). Some storefront awnings for shade would be nice, too.
“Whom does this project serve, anyhow?”
Carole Rickman: “Save our tree. A message for our City Council and the powers that be: As the song goes — ‘Take Paradise and put in a parking lot’— or in this case, a road.
“It seems such a shame to destroy such a beautiful part of our Downtown in the name of ‘progress.’ Please leave the tree —work around it.
“The birds, critters (and) people will thank you.
“S. Derrickson Moore — I love your columns and hope your rallying cry for our tree will help save it.”

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fun with birthday numbers

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — It’s a big year for significant birthdays in the Land of Enchantment in general and the City of the Crosses in particular.
We’re always up for a party, here in the city of fiesta moods and festive attitudes.
J. Paul Taylor turned 90 about the same time the Branigan Cultural Center turned 75. Initially, the August birthday bashes were scheduled for the same day, but “human-before-institution” honors prevailed, and the Branigan fiesta moved to anther day, Sept. 3.
The celebrations continue.
On Sept. 15, No Strings Theatre Company celebrated its 10th anniversary. As it happens, that’s also Guatemalan Independence Day and the birthdays of my late dad Jack and my early soulmate Dr. Roger. Hmm. I’m sure a good astrologer could enlighten me about the significance of these Sept. 15 events. Maybe I’ll write a play about it all and present it at the Black Box Theatre, No Strings’ home base.
There are some other interesting things involving birthday/anniversary celebrations, like the fact that our state is so much younger than its three biggest cities. New Mexico will celebrate its 100th birthday (the centennial of statehood) in 2012, yet our state’s capital, Santa Fe, is celebrating its 400th anniversary this year.
Albuquerque, if I remember right, had a big 300th birthday bash about four years ago and Las Cruces has a year of sesquicentennial (150th) celebrations in 1998.
Probably on some plain of existence, there are some chuckles about these “founding” dates and epic birthdays from Anasazis and Mimbres and other ancient souls, whose first appearances in shards and fossil remains date back thousands, not mere hundreds, of years.
Back on the home front, coming up soon is another, if much younger, milestone anniversary.
The Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico will celebrate with a 10th Anniversary Gala at 6 p.m. Oct. 2 at the Las Cruces International Airport. There’ll be dinner, dancing and a live auction and dress is “semi-formal or aviation costume,” so if you’ve ever wanted to dress up as a World War I flying ace, this is your big chance. Tickets and info: (575) 521-4794 or
Coming up is a season of 25th anniversary celebrations for the New Mexico State University Choral Department. In a few months, Court Youth Center, home of Alma d’arte Charter School, will celebrate the 15th anniversary of its rebirth.
Today you can read about the nation’s oldest two-story adobe theater, the Rio Grande, which first entertained Las Crucens in the 1920s. What we’re celebrating this month is the fifth anniversary of its facelift, or restoration. It’s an intriguing fiesta concept, a kind of rebirthday.
I’ve always wondered why the only birthdays deemed worthy of major fiestas always seem to end in “5” or “0,” whether they’re measured in two- or three- or four-digit increments. And we stop there. I can’t remember the 10,000th anniversary celebration of anything, can you? Though I do recall, growing up, monitoring the number of burgers sold on ever-changing signs at McDonald’s. I don’t think they do that anymore, but a website reports that by spring of 2010 the total was about 245 billion served.
Meanwhile, back home on the range, we have some more eco-friendly, organic, downhome numbers to celebrate. Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market fans who might have missed the earlier stories will be pleased to know that in the America's Favorite Farmers Markets Contest, we ranked first in New Mexico overall and No. 9 in the United States for markets with more than 56 vendors.
Chris Faivre of the Las Cruces Convention & Visitors Bureau noted that we were also “the only market within New Mexico to rank nationally in any one of the contest categories. In fact, the LCFCM was only one vote shy of an 8th place tie with the Chattanooga Market in Tennessee.”
The contest is sponsored each year by American Farmland Trust (
In 2011, the LCFCM will celebrate its 40th anniversary. If trends continue, our market could be No. 1 in the United States at age 40.
That could be quite a birthday present.
NOTE: City officials, spare the tree that shades our nation’s fabulous No. 9 market! Many of you are fighting mad about plans to cut down what many of us think is the Downtown’s most beautiful tree — and we’d also like to preserve some other old-growth faves. We’ll share your comments in next week’s Las Cruces Style column.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Is there still time to save our tree?

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Bureaucrats, spare that tree!
Remember that big, beautiful Chinese pistache near the Music Box on the Downtown Mall? The one some of us think may be the most beautiful tree in the Mesilla Valley?
Many of us thought it was safe, after a controversy erupted in January and many of you wrote, called and e-mailed offering to petition, protest or even picket to save your favorite trees. Others suggested that the Downtown Mall plan be redesigned to accommodate the tree.
This is what some our city officials had to say then.
“I think it would be kind of nice to have the street curve around the tree. Maybe it would be like that street in San Francisco and people would come to see our street with the big tree right in the middle,” Mayor Ken Miyagishima said, referring to San Francisco’s Lombard Street, known as “the crookedest street in the world.”
Assistant city manager Robert Garza called the tree “a cornerstone that’s fortunately strategically planted right in the middle, which enables us to design a solution around the tree” and said “mechanics have now been set in motion” for a redesign that could save the tree when the final phase of revitalization begins on the south end of the mall, possibly as early as next March.
Garza won the hearts of tree-lovers when he noted, “It’s a perfect tree and it’s a happy tree and has been there a long time and should be there as long as possible.”
Sounds like our tree dodged a bullet — or a bulldozer — yes?
Well, apparently, no. Maybe you missed some crucial information in the last paragraphs of Amanda Bradford’s Sept. 1 story on the demise of the towering Downtown Mall Afghan pine that has served as the city’s Christmas tree for the past two years. Robert Ebler, the city’s senior civil engineer, said our tree is likely to be among a group (once scheduled to be spared or moved) that will be destroyed, after all.
“We could lose over 20 on-street parking spaces by leaving the tree in place and transitioning the road into tight quarters on the sides. Ultimately, it's best to remove the tree. We are planting over 50 new trees for about the same cost as moving just the one. Also, we feel it is more business-friendly to provide parking and related amenities with the proposed plan,” Garza said in an e-mail.
Eber said costs to move the pistache could be $30,000 to $40,000 and designing around the tree could cost $50,000. He opined that the flow of traffic would be pushed to one side, creating safety hazards and reducing parking and landscaping possibilities for the area.
To which I say, let’s consider the landscaping reality of that tree that’s been green and growing with us for more than three decades, and find a way to let it be and make it work.
If it’s the design money, maybe we can find some volunteers who will help us or give us a discount. I’ve toured eco-friendly developments here where planners have managed to curve roads and sidewalks and readjust mega-buck developments to save old growth mesquite. Surely we can find ways to do the same for the prettiest tree shading the corazon y alma (heart and soul) of our city, a place we want to revitalize to showcase what’s best about Las Cruces.
So what, if it means a little jog in the road, the sacrifice of a few parking spaces, or some artful landscaping to reroute pedestrians? We aren’t looking for a high-speed expressway there, anyway. And won’t it be worth it, especially when the street is closed off for market days and festivals, to see another generation of kids playing under its leafy canopy?
After the Christmas tree came down, I was stopped on a Downtown Mall stroll by Tamie Smith, who’s mad and sad about the tree topplings.
“If (auto) mall traffic is so great, why don’t they put a street down the middle of the Mesilla Valley Mall?” she asked.
She said she’s been ignored by bureaucrats and city officials when she comes up with plans for Downtown revitalization. She shared a few with me: a railway line running through the mall, acting as a tourist attraction and a way of transporting people to attractions in our burgeoning cultural corridor. She pointed to a strip of grass across from the Rio Grande Theatre and suggested we ask the bank if they’d be willing to allow a line of shade trees there, if we could get the city to provide and maintain the trees.
And she wants to save the big, beautiful pistache.
“The new trees aren’t enough. I won’t have another 30 years until they grow. I won’t be alive to see it,” she said.
What do you think? If you feel it’s worth the effort to slightly alter the mall plan to save the tree, or have some other ideas, let us know.
To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style, email or write me c/o Las Cruces Sun-News, 256 W. Las Cruces Ave., Las Cruces, NM 88005.
There’s still time to save that tree, a symbol of so many things we love about Las Cruces. Let’s do it.

S. Derrickson Moore at can be reached at; (575) 541-5450.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Fiesta Roundup

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — This is it, party animals.
Last weekend’s old standby, Deming’s Great American Duck Races, and the new chica on the block, MainStreet Salsa Festival, now in its second year, kicked off the 2010-11 Full-Tilt Fiesta Season.
As today’s Labor Day weekend roundup shows, whether the economy has rebounded or not, our fiesta spirit is going strong.
And even the festivals that had called it quits seem to be coming back in some new forms.
The Hillsboro Apple Festival has been reborn as the Hillsboro Harvest Festival, with the same great attractions in a mountain town full of art galleries, antique stores and historic adobe homes. This year, they’ll also feature a new crop of apples.
From now on, we’ll be pretty much going full-tilt through New Year’s. Labor Day weekend attractions include the New Mexico Wine Harvest Festival, Hatch Chile Festival and the Franciscan Festival of the Arts, which evolved into the Doña Arts Council’s Renaissance Arts Faire, the region’s largest cultural event, before returning to its original name and site at Holy Cross.
DAAC has bee the source of other spin-offs, too. Their annual ArtsHop has morphed into the monthly Downtown Ramble and other artists’ neighborhood studio and gallery tours, including the brand new Camino del Arte, which will make it’s debut from 11 to 3 p.m. Sept. 11 in the city historic Mesquite District, along with DAAC’s brand new Color Las Cruces Plein Air Competition and Community Arts Festival Sept. 11 and 12. Fort Selden Frontier Days will be the same weekend, a boon for art and history buffs.
The White Sands Hot Air Balloon Invitational runs Sept. 17 to 19. Save some energy to celebrate Mexico’s independence at the Diez y Seis de Septiembre Festival Sept. 18 and 19 on the Mesilla, Plaza. Get ready for the city’s street party (and the world largest enchilada) at The Whole Enchilada Festival Sept. 24 through 26.
Livestock shows, a cowboy rodeo, a midway, food, music and fun, plus a showcase of our best animals, produce, arts and crafts and more, highlight the Southern New Mexico State Fair and Rodeo Sept. 30 to Oct. 4.
It will be a very jazzy FTFS. The Mesilla Jazz Happening will be Oct. 2 and 3, with wine gardens at both locations. at the Mercado Plaza and the Mesilla Plaza. If you’re up for a third venue, check out the La Viña Wine Festival, also Oct. 2 and 3.
And here’s more: “Jam Session in Las Cruces,” two months of events focusing on the art and culture of jazz, will feature multi-media exhibits, concerts, films, gallery talks, and educational outreach events at several locations from December 10 to Feb. 3 For more info: visit the "Jam Session in Las Cruces" website at: That’ll ease us into 2011 February For the Love of Art Month celebrations of visual, performance and literary arts.
Meanwhile, back in 2010, autumn fun continues with Dias de los Muertos celebrations around Las Cruces and from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 on Mesilla’s Plaza.
Deadheads and RenFaire fans will be able to spread out the fun this year, since two of our most popular celebrations won’t fall on the same weekend. DAAC’s Renaissance ArtsFaire will be Nov. 6 and 7 at Young Park.
The Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference Nov. 11 through 14, includes concerts, a Mariachi Mass and the Parque Festival.
December is packed with festive and spiritual celebrations, pageants and festivals, some with historic roots that stretch back centuries. The Tortugas Pueblo invites the community for events that include a pilgrimage up A Mountain, dancing ceremonies and a traditional albondigas feast during their Virgen de Guadalupe Festival, always held Dec. 10, 11 and 12. There are traditional luminaria displays at NMSU and Doña Ana Plaza, and the Christmas Eve lumniarias and carols on Mesilla’s Plaza.
There are holiday concerts, church and school events and pageants, bazaars and bake sales, holiday Downtown Rambles and lots more.
There are many more special events, too, from area autumn mazes to gallery and museum openings, special shows, theater openings, Las Cruces Symphony and NMSU Choral Department premieres and concerts, the Las Cruces Chamber Ballet’s annual presentation of the beloved holiday classic “The Nutcracker” and the La Casa Bazaar Dec. 3, 4 and 5, one of the first events at our brand new Las Cruces Convention Center. Pace yourself, ease into fiesta mode and we’ll do our best to keep you posted.
¡Viva Full-Tilt Fiesta Season!

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450

Tour Las Cruces' HIstoric Mesquite District

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Sometimes an artquake can sneak up on you, virtually in your own backyard.
Ten studios and galleries will participate in Saturday’s first Camino del Arte tour, which participants hope will become a popular trek from 11 to 3 p.m. the second Saturday of each month.
It’s also a chance to see the wonderful old adobe buildings in what was once part of the legendary El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, one of the longest, oldest trails in the Americas, where indigenous peoples blazed footpaths that would become the route used by Spaniards and later settlers.
In 1849, Pablo Melendrez got some rawhide rope and patiently laid out a grid for the original Las Cruces townsite. Not too long ago, I was discussing Pablo and his colorful era with Carlos Melendrez, who’s among the descendents of those original founding families who still live in — or have returned to — the historic neighborhood.
When I decided to visit all the Camino del Arte gallery owners, I realized I already knew most of the people and/or sites on the tour.
I think my first Mesquite Street contact, almost two decades ago, was probably Tony Pennock, creator of our dramatic water tank murals, whose studio is on the tour.
Several years ago, I walked through a crumbling adobe with artist Sina Brush, someone I knew in Santa Fe and re-met here, when she was working to restore what would become Catherine and Don Brenner’s beautiful Unsettled Gallery.
Sina had a vision. She thought Mesquite Street could become an artistic mecca. We both love Santa Fe’s Canyon Road, and Sina clearly held that thought when she was researching the best ways to restore her property. She saw it as her own possible home and studio someday.
The Brenners shared her vision and as Catherine told me last week, they “bonded with the old adobe.”
The same attraction has enticed artists from around the U.S. and around the world, including Diana Ayres and her Australian-born husband Dean, who settled in across the street at what is now Mesquite Street Studios.
In recent years, studios were opened by multimedia artist Joyce T. Macrorie, who restored a cozy old adobe on San Pedro, and sculptor John Northcutt, who established New Dimension Artworks on Pinon Street.
One of the area’s newest galleries is the fulfillment of a long-held dream of a family with deep roots is the Mesilla Valley. Tina Gallegos’ dream came true with the opening of Nopalito Galeria.
“My mom has wanted to start a gallery in this house for a long as I can remember,” said David Gallegos, leading a tour of art-filled nooks and nichos next door to the family’s popular Nopalito Restaurant.
Nearby is the light-filled, contemporary Southwestern home and studio of Gabriella Denton, a Santa Fe transplant whose work I’ve admired for years in City Different shops and galleries.
Recently, she put me in touch with the only three Mesquite tour artists I hadn’t met.
Belgian Yanick D’hooge was still unpacking and arranging some lovely fin de siecle (that’s the fin of the 19th, not 20th century) wrought iron pieces she’s restoring while transforming another old adobe into a stylish, Europe-meets-Nuevo Mexico home and studio. She’s a talented photographer and videographer. She shared her intriguing Andy Warholian documentary on the many moods of our Organ Mountains. I also enjoyed a nice tête-à-tête with her chic and trés amical Weimaraner, who understood my high school French, or graciously pretended to, and bid me a fond adieu as I left Studio 308 and headed for Mesquite Art Gallery.
There, I met Mel Stone, another recent transplant who is enjoying a new career as a fine art photographer and gallery owner after nearly three decades as a “one-man band,” writing, shooting and editing TV features for Fargo’s NBC affiliate.
I felt like I’d come full circle on my surprisingly cosmopolitan backyard tour, when I met Las Cruces native Michael Poncé, who’s back after worldwide travels and impressive artistic accomplishments in San Francisco, New York, Mexico and Great Britain. He’ll borrow a site at 130 N. Mesquite St. for Saturday’s tour before opening his own gallery at 508 N. Mesquite St.
Take some time to investigate Camino del Arte. I bet you’ll be surprised, too, by the artistic treasures evolving in our own backyard.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450

Monday, August 23, 2010

Should school start in August?

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Grandson Alexander the Great said there are many things he misses about Las Cruces, but going back to school in the middle of August is not one of them.
I don’t think his selective memory is giving full credit to the joys of getting out of school in May. In fact, I think he’s still a little irked about the year he started school here in mid-August, moved and ended up having to finish the grade in a new state where school continued until mid-June. That’s a chunk of summer prime time the universe owes him and he’s not likely to forget it anytime soon.
We had a lengthy conversation last Sunday. He’d just gotten back from a weekend of camping and hanging out with some of his bandmates at the Warped Tour, not in Las Cruces this time, but at the Gorge Amphitheater in the Pacific Northwest’s dramatic Columbia River Gorge, a visually breathtaking place that makes our Rio look, frankly, not so Grande.
He was able to rock out, secure in the knowledge that the next day would not be a school day, as it would be for his unfortunate Las Cruces amigos.
I’ve asked a lot, during my 17 summers here, why we still have this strange schedule. I’ve heard many explanations, none of which Alex the Great and I found acceptable: That it’s related to NMSU’s schedule, and harvest schedules.
The smell of green chiles reminds us that it is indeed harvest season. And during this month’s presentation by Irene Oliver-Lewis on the history of Las Cruces Public Schools over the last century, Elizabeth Holguin Lannert reminisced about the days when students were routinely dismissed from schools to help harvest crops.
“Especially during the 1940s, when so many were away at war, we students went out to pick cotton and work in the fields whenever we were needed,” she said.
But we don’t pull kids out of school these days to toil in the fields, and it’s still kind of a mystery to me why we don’t let our niños vacation until after Labor Day, like most of the nation.
Yeah, it’s only a couple of weeks, and the kids will be glad to get them back in May and June, but there’s something special, magical even, about having that intact block in June, July and August, to do summer things.
It impacts the rest of us, too, I realized, talking with Alex in a kind of summer time warp between Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and the Land of Enchantment.
I’d already done back-to-school features and was planning fall vacations and he’s still in the last hazy daze of blissful summer denial, when school seems a lazy aeon away.
Yes, he’s willing to talk about hot trends in teen clothes (“skinny jeans, still, and V-neck T-shirts and tank tops, plain white or colors”) but not the kind of clothes — sweaters and coats and boots — needed to make it through the school year of northern Idaho’s chilly autumn, winter and spring.
We talked about summer stuff: vampire books and vampire spoof movies, concerts and camping, his stint as a summer volunteer with Habitat for Humanity projects, and summer fun as lead vocalist and composer with his still-unnamed rock band.
It took me a little more than a split second to realize that cheerful deep baritone “Hi” emanates from the same soul who once delighted us with merry baby chirps, who finally taught me how to roll my R’s and shared entertaining Spanish kid slang during his pre-school days in Las Cruces.
But the Alex vibes are the same. We discussed computers and his friends, what sizes I should look for to fit his lanky and still upwardly mobile six-foot-frame.
And the fact that he enjoys being able to celebrate his birthday in a place where it’s still summer, before school has started.
Alex turns 14 today, and he’ll be a high school freshman soon.
But not for a few weeks. School or no, let’s enjoy the sunrises, the sunsets and all the last succulent bits of summer in between. Even slow summer days can move deceptively fast. Stop and savor whenever you can, or you might miss some of the best parts.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Great moments in theater

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Let’s take time to take stock of just what we have here, Las Cruces theater fans. (Please hold your applause: It’s quite a list.)
Three full-fledged theater companies.
Top notch children’s theater groups.
The Doña Ana Lyric Opera company, Las Cruces Symphony, NMSU Choirs and the Las Cruces Chamber Ballet, all of which occasionally put on theatrical programs which combine drama, music and dance.
Musical revues and original productions at cafés and restaurants and the state’s oldest adobe theater, the renovated Rio Grande Theatre.
Surprisingly polished theatrical presentations by students at local public and private schools.
World premieres of original plays by prize-winning writers.
Mark Medoff plays that made their world premieres in Las Cruces before moving on to Broadway include “Gila” and “Children of a Lesser God,” which won a Tony and went on to become a film that garnered Academy Award nominations (Marlee Matlin won a Best Actress Oscar for her role).
Starting in 1994, for several years, I saw just about every adult theatrical production and several impressive children’s theatrical and school presentations in the Mesilla Valley.
Though some stretch back more than a decade, I still vividly recall some highly diverse, but nonetheless undeniably great moments in theater:
• A play with lovely animated monsters created by artist Stephen Hansen.
• Medoff’s imaginative drama that featured a winsome American Sign Language-literate gorilla, a young woman with a giant Gila monster tattoo on her back, and an onstage underwater romantic encounter.
• Medoff’s feminist Wild Western opera “Sara McKinnon” and his showstopping song, “As Children We Dream.”
• A Bob Diven play that featured singing dinosaurs, and another in which multitalented Diven sang and created original works of art in a tribute to John Singer Sargent. (He also wrote the play.)
• Watching the faces of Irene Oliver-Lewis’ mom and dad as they watched a local presentation of “Ceciliaisms: Dichos de Mi Madre” about her family life, growing up in Las Cruces.
My personal great moments weren’t all from big productions. Talent in a theatrical community seems to be the only trickle down concept that actually works.
I still find myself both tickled and a little teary when I remember a Hillrise Elementary School holiday pageant number, a Southwestern version of the “12 Days of Christmas” sung by a kids' choir that included then-small grandson Alexander the Great.
A few years ago, Sun-News management decided we would no longer send reporters to review the ever-burgeoning number of live performing arts theatrical, musical and dance productions.
I was sad, because I think a measure of a community’s cultural life can be gauged with the presence of treasures like a resident symphony, opera, ballet, and great theater, dance and vocal groups. We are blessed to have them all, an astounding thing in a city our size.
And I grew up thinking that the measure of a metropolitan newspaper was having skilled critics and reporters who could produce intelligent and entertaining reviews of a city’s cultural life.
But cultural treasures have accrued so fast that there’s no way we could cover it all these days.
So we’re asking for your help. If you’ve involved in an upcoming production and would like to share some photos, video clips or preview comments, e-mail me at
This week, we’re starting a new blog called YouReview. You’re invited to share your reviews of area plays and performances and find out what others are thinking at our new interactive online feature. Visit, go to our Blogzone at the right of the screen, click on YouReview and add your comments. You can also find our blogs at the same site by going to the green directory bar and clicking on Opinion, and then Blogs.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Art selection process draws protest from two

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Should publicly-funded state art projects be awarded only to New Mexico residents?
That’s the controversy emerging as internationally- known Las Cruces artist George Mendoza protested a decision to choose five out-of-state finalists to vie for a $171,000 large scale art project commissioned by New Mexico State University.
“It’s horrible, especially with the economy and the art market the way it is,” said Mendoza, a legally blind abstract artist who has been the subject of a movie and documentary, had national touring exhibitions of his paintings and created works used in an international lime of fabrics.
Medoza said he was inspired to protest the decision by David Boje, whose NMSU marketing class helped him with an application for the large scale work in a three-story glass atrium at O’Donnell Hall, the home of NMSU’s College of Education.
“When he heard about this David (Boje) just screamed out, ‘How can they do this? With 36 New Mexico artists out of 359 artists who applied, doesn’t New Mexico have any artist good enough to do this?’ I know if I was chosen, I would use local people and spend money here to do this,” Mendoza said.
Boje confirmed he was upset with the decision.
“I think of the five, at least one should have been from New Mexico,” said Boje, who added that he is “investigating” issues that include “possible conflict of interest, violations of mission statements” and changes in selection criteria after the application deadline.
“I’m not saying there is a conflict of interest, I’m just saying it should be investigated,” Boje said.
None of Boje’s charges are valid, said Wynn Egginton, director of NMSU’s Education Research and Budgeting office and a member of the seven- member selection committee who chose finalists.
“It’s sad that this is putting a cloud over what has been a very exciting and exhilarating opportunity. I think our selection committee is very professional and conscientious. We went looking for the best art we could find for the space in an award-winning building,” Egginton said.
“I think the art kind of falls above all this. Art is more universal and we selected the top five people that would best do the project,” said Sally Cutter, also a member of the selection committee.
In addition to gallery owner Sally Cutter and project director user/agency representative Egginton, the selection committee included NMSU’s University Architect and Director of Facilities Planning and Construction Michael Rickenbaker, architect Jim Vorenberg, artist Tom Gerend, and community members Sheryl Parsley, an NMSU alumna, and Liz Marrufo, Director of Elementary Instruction, College of Education at NMSU.
“I was looking at the art. I don’t think I even looked at where (the artists) were from until late in the selection process. There were some wonderful submissions and the quality of the art was just unbelievable,” Cutter said.
A New Mexico state law stipulates that one percent of public money for building and renovation programs must be allocated for art, but there is no stipulation that all commissions must be awarded to artists who are New Mexico residents, said Chuck Zimmer, manager of New Mexico Art in Public Places.
“Commissioned projects are done on a case-by-case basis. We offer a number of projects that are for New Mexico artists only. It’s up to a selection committee to decide the scope and whether to open it up to nationwide searches,” Zimmer said.
Zimmer said that Boje’s charges were unfounded, that selection criteria had not been changed from 2-D to 3-D works and that the processing of choosing the selection committee involved no conflicts of interest.
The criteria never changed and if any of the artists (who submitted proposals) misunderstood the criteria, that number was relatively small,” Zimmer said.
Egginton agreed wih Zimmer that there was no indication of conflict of interest.
Egginton said selection committee members were initially chosen by an NMSU group seeking representatives of the arts and educational communities.
“Our selection committee list was vetted and approved by New Mexico Arts,” without changes in recommendations, Egginton said.
Boje implied that there is a conflict of interest because Glenn Cutter serves as a New Mexico State Art Commissioner, and the selection committee includes his wife, Sally Cutter, and Dr. Tom Gerend, who has exhibited at the Cutter Cutter.
Glenn Cutter said Tuesday that he had “absolutely nothing to do with the selection of the committee members or the committee’s selection of finalists. Sally and I never discussed any of it.”
After learning that Zimmer and Egginton had confirmed the independent processes in committee selection, Boje said,“Well, I’m glad you investigated. I guess I was wrong about that, and I’ll tone things down on my website.”

In a Tuesday e-mail he wrote: “Still there is for me the issue of process, and representativeness. Still it’s not clear how the mission of the university or the state agency, the Department of Cultural Affairs, is being served by this particular use of taxpayer dollars.”
According to the New Mexico Arts website, “Since its inception nearly 25 years ago, the (Art in Public Places) program has placed more than 2,500 works of art in all of New Mexico’s 33 counties. Our goal is to reflect the diversity of the arts in New Mexico, the Southwest, and the nation while building a dynamic public art collection for the State of New Mexico,”
Cutter and Zimmer both expressed concerns that if New Mexico limited eligibility to state residents, other states might decide to bar New Mexico artists from vying for projects in their states.
"I don’t care. The main criteria should be how are we’re helping New Mexico artists compete for these commissions. At least one candidate (among the finalists) should have been from New Mexico. We need to change the process and see that people on the selection committee reflect the artistic and demographic diversity of the community,” Boje said.
“It should be noted that all of the local selection committee members are residents of the Las Cruces area. The selection process that New Mexico Arts has in place is a fair and equitable process and the Art in Public Places staff would never second guess a local selection committee nor dictate art choices from Santa Fe,” Zimmer said. “While it is a tempting idea to limit the public art competitions to New Mexico artists, that would be short-sighted and could actually hurt New Mexican artists in the long run as other states would respond by not allowing New Mexico artists to compete for public art projects in their states – and we do want our New Mexico artists to be competitive in getting public art projects across the country and around the world.”
Zimmer said the state’s research “has shown that contracting with out-of-state artists brings a significant economic impact to local New Mexico businesses. The selected artist will stay in a Las Cruces hotel, eat at Las Cruces restaurants, and buy supplies and rent equipment from Las Cruces area stores. On average, our research shows that an out-of-state artist spends about one third of their project budget in the community where the art is being installed.”
Zimmer said artists interested in information about New Mexico Art in Public Places programs and upcoming projects are invited to visit online and click on Art in Public Places, Current Opportunities and Commissions.
Among current opportunities is a $278,800 commission for “a site-integrated project” for the New Mexico State University Center for the Arts Performance Hall. Application deadline is Sept. 30.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450

Las Cruces: Eclectic salon capital of the world

LAS CRUCES — When I think about salons, places where the great minds and creative talents of an era gather to share ideas, I think about Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, whose Paris abode was a magnet for early 20th century up-and-coming artists like Matisse and Picasso and literary lions Ernest Hemingway and Thorton Wilder.
Some noted salons were held in public places rather than private homes, like the Algonquin Round Table, where a group of writers, critics, actors, journalists and assorted other witty souls gathered in the 1920s at New York’s Algonquin Hotel. Mainstays included Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, George S. Kaufman and Heywood Brown, with frequent appearances by Harpo Marx, Tallulah Bankhead, Edna Ferber and other luminaries of the time.
Sometimes, a salon is a fortuitous combination of outstanding people and places. Mabel Dodge Luhan’s exotic two-story adobe in Taos attracted noted poets and authors, societal movers and shakers like Margaret Sanger, John Reed and Emma Goldman, as well as artists like Georgia O’Keeffe and “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” author D.H. Lawrence, who in a surprising fit of modesty, painted scenes on all the windows of her second floor bathroom, reportedly in a quest for privacy. In the 1960s, the house passed to Dennis Hopper, who established a counterculture salon of his own there.
The salon tradition is far from dead, especially in New Mexico. I have fond memories of Santa Fe gatherings of interesting minds and souls in the various Canyon Road adobe galleries and abodes of artist Carole La Roche, from the 1980s to the present, where visitors and amigos could range from the likes of actors Robert Redford and Christopher Walken to Liz Taylor’s son, writers, poets, journalists, psychics, assorted soon-to-famous artists, philosophers, arts aficionados, and always, a few surprises. During a recent visit, a small group of us were pondering the mysteries of the universe, when a neatly-dressed man in his 30s appeared at her door, dressed in what looked like a Brooks Brothers shirt and a toga made from a designer sheet.
If I remember right, he was a former stockbroker or investment banker who’d taken a vow of poverty and was on a spiritual quest of some sort. He held out a lovely little copper bowl and Carole quickly put together a ham and cheese sandwich, plunked it in his bowl and sent him on his way, about the time another artist showed up to talk about his newly animated Earth Day website for kids.
That’s the kind of serendipity that makes for a great salon.
When I was pondering the prospects of salons in Las Cruces, I realized we already have several.
I’ve heard tales of the founding of a great theatrical salon-Algonquin club hybrid launched here in the 1970s and nurtured by Mark and Stephanie Medoff, the Herschel Zohns, Bruce and Mary Streett and others.
Last Sunday’s profile of Jewell and her MyPlace at 140-A Wyatt Drive reminded me that that Las Cruces public access salon concept is thriving here. Jewell’s a founder of our burgeoning local dance, drum and belly dancing communities, and from our brief, fun interview, struck me as a welcoming host for anyone interested in the arts, fashion, alternative healthcare or just about anything new and colorful, ethnic, traditional and spiritual.
Award-winning author and Border Book Festival Denise Chávez hosts another salon success story.
Visit her at Border Book Foundation headquarters next to the Mesilla Post Office, and you’re almost guaranteed to pick up some new ideas, a great book or maybe even a new best friend.
And that’s just the start of great Las Cruces salons, past, present and future.
Many of us are missing philosophy sessions at Corie Lane’s Pure Energy Juice Bar and are hoping she emerges with another salon soon.
At the home of the late New York magazine wine columnist and best-selling wine expert Alexis Bespaloff and his wife, Cecilia Lewis, who’s since moved back to New York, I met everyone from renowned Chinese scholars to soap opera stars.
Salon stars still here and shining include Charlotte Lipson. At her stylish suburban loft home and pool, I’ve encountered economic gurus, TV stars and political movers and shakers.
I’ve had some fascinating discussions about the future of the visual and performing arts and the evolution of city life at Warren and Heather Pollard’s elegant abode.
Gatherings at Irene Oliver-Lewis’ home or office (at Alma d’arte Charter High School) could mean great talks with songwriters, filmmakers, educators and Japanese philosophers and maybe even a limousine ride with Edward James Olmos.
In fact, Las Cruces could be the new millennium’s eclectic salon capital of the world.
If space permitted, I could list a dozen public and private salons where great minds are gathering to make poetic and practical sense of the universe and its component parts. And I’ll bet you could suggest a dozen more.

Share comments about your favorite salon. S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.