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Jul 27

Lost But Not Forgotten

Posted on July 27, 2022 at 8:34 AM by Ceci Vasconcellos

There is something about looking at historical buildings that triggers my imagination. Architecturally, some are very beautiful to look at while others have an aura created by long-ago people that resided there and events that took place there. Some historical structures no longer exist and can only be found in old photographs showing where they once stood. The visual echoes of such buildings still trigger the imagination and possibly some nostalgia for sure.  

City Hall is now exhibiting a portion of “The Lost Buildings of Las Cruces”, a photo collection which highlights some of the buildings that once graced our downtown. The exhibit was guest curated by local historian Chris Schurtz, and first displayed at the Branigan Cultural Center in 2013. Since then, it has been displayed at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum and portions of it have migrated their way around City Hall.  

The preservation of older buildings is usually the result of someone having the foresight to recognize what is not shiny and new today, could someday be valued for the history it represents. Unfortunately, that does not always happen.  

Such was the case of the Las Cruces downtown. Developers were looking to bring a different aesthetic to main street where all was modern and new. This mindset meant that older buildings were not part of their vision. Therefore, most of the physical structures are long gone but fortunately preserved in these historic photographs. 

The black and white photos in “Lost Buildings” highlight landmark buildings transporting the viewer to a time when Las Cruces was a new and growing metropolis. The structures once stood in places that are well-known to community members today and may spark personal memories of nights out on the town, shopping trips, or the homes of friends. Visitors will see a snapshot of Las Cruces’ vibrant past. All can appreciate what once was, while enjoying our modern times. 

Black and white photograph of the Hotel Rouault in downtown Las Cruces circa 1930. Photo Credit: New Mexico State University, Archives and Special Collections   

Hotel Rouault circa 1930 was located where the Plaza de Las Cruces stands today. The “Lost Buildings” exhibit is located on the second floor of City Hall in Suite 2300. All are welcome to visit during regular business hours. 

Rubber Ducks blog is brought to you by the Las Cruces Public Art program to share ideas, information, discussions, trends, and all things public art. Please send comments and ideas for future blogs to PublicArt@las-cruces.org.Rubber Ducks Banner

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Jul 01

Postcards from the Art

Posted on July 1, 2022 at 10:12 AM by Ceci Vasconcellos

Vacation – time off to travel to a new destination or a favorite home away from home or taking day trips to nearby hot spots for a quick getaway. Whatever your choice is, one thing you can count on finding wherever you go is public art.  

Public art is sometimes very visible and a possible destination on its own. Often, it is a hidden in the backdrop of whatever place you are visiting and can be a special treat when you find it. Recently, I attended a conference in Washington, D.C. and as I was walking through a nearby neighborhood, I saw two beautiful murals painted on building walls. Because they just happened to catch my eye, it felt like finding a dollar on the sidewalk or seeing a celebrity at a restaurant; random, not super important but kinda thrilling and fun. An experience I felt compelled to share with friends.  

Marilyn Monroe Mural on side of building

Elephant Mural on side of building

Interesting public art murals found on my trip to Washington D.C.. 

The art that is unique to places may surprise you with an unexpected story or experience that enriches your visit and extends the memory of the area. Or at least, provides you with a souvenir photo to show when you are back home. 

Steer sculpture made from wood and steel standing on street corner in Truth Or Consequences

Wood and metal steer sculpture found in Truth or Consequences, NM.

We invite you to take photos of any public art you see next time you travel and post it on your social media. Tag us on Instagram @lcpublicart or FB @lascrucespublicart. Or share it by email to PublicArt@las-cruces.org. We would love to see what treasures you find! Inspire us to visit new places – to think, “Do I wish I were there?” and of course, remember to take your out-of-town guests by some of our public art to enhance their Las Cruces experience!  

More Examples of Public Art in Nearby Places

Yucca plant made of aluminum located in Albuquerque

Metal Yucca located in Albuquerque, NM.

Large scale sculpture with tiled mosaic depicting a flower and rootsTiled mosaic sculpture located in Carlsbad, NM.

Mimbres mural on side of building

Mimbres mural in Deming, NM. 

Ruidoso Postcard style mural with ski lift and theatre chairs in front

Guess where this postcard mural is located?

Green metallic abstract sculpture in TaosSculpture located in Taos, NM.

 Rubber Ducks blog is brought to you by the Las Cruces Public Art program to share ideas, information, discussions, trends, and all things public art. Please send comments and ideas for future blogs to PublicArt@las-cruces.org 

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May 13

Tale of Two Lions

Posted on May 13, 2022 at 9:31 AM by Ceci Vasconcellos

Did you know Las Cruces has two lions named E.J. and Mabel? They sit tirelessly guarding the entrance into City Hall, Albert Johnson Park, and the Thomas Branigan Memorial Library, and graciously wear hats or scarves placed on them occasionally by well-meaning individuals. The lions are also the City’s first sculptures on record in our public art collection.

The beautiful bronze lion sculptures, located at the entrance of 700 N. Main Street, were donated in 1968 by local entrepreneur, farmer, and philanthropist Eugene J. Stern. Mr. Stern (or E.J.) had seen a pair of similar lions on a trip to Mexico, and 23 years later, E.J. commissioned Mexican artist Señior Modesto Barrios Caballero for a similar pair to donate to the City. The art commission totaled $25,000. The lions were officially presented on August 9, 1968 and placed on the porticos on either side of the then new city hall building on Church Street, serving as guardians of the building. 

Eugene J. Stern sitting on base of City Hall Lion. Photo Credit: jmaw.org

Street view of former City Hall on Church Street with lion sculptures in front. Photo: The Paper

Top photo: E.J. Stern with City Hall lion. Photo Credit: JMAW.org  Bottom photo: Lions guarding old City Hall. Photo credit: The Paper (Albuquerque)

In 2010, when the City of Las Cruces completed the current City Hall facility, several different locations were considered for relocating the lions before City Council decided the northwest entrance to City Hall was best. It provided a grander gateway, not only to the new City Hall, but also to the library and Johnson Park as well. It also created a deeper sense of place to the entire site and functions as a landmark for the public. 

But get this – until the move to their current home -- the lions didn’t have names. People referred to them as the City Hall Lions or the Stern Lions maybe or, as I used to call them when I was a kid playing on them while my mom was paying bills, the Fun Lions. When the City moved the bronze lions to their new home, it was decided it was time to give them a name. The public was invited to suggest possible names for the pair and then vote for their favorite via an online poll. A few of the names considered were “Red and Green” (meh), “Lucy and Crucey” (different), “Don and Ana” (funny but no). The winning name was E.J. and Mabel (naturally) with “Freedom and Justice” coming in a close second.

Who were the Sterns? E.J. and Mabel Stern lived in Las Cruces beginning in 1917. His first business was the Popular Dry Goods retail store in downtown Las Cruces, which now houses Boneyard Cantina and Zeffiros Pizzeria. Later, he founded Mutual Building and Loan and opened another retail store called The White House which eventually became Dunlap’s, another staple of old Main Street. That is just a sample of E.J.’s many business ventures.  As philanthropists, the Sterns funded scholarships for NMSU students, donated funds to every church in Las Cruces in the 1930’s, established the Salvation Army in Las Cruces, founded a chapter of the Boy’s Club of America (now the Boy’s and Girl’s Club of America still located in the original building and property), helped establish the first Dona Ana County Fair, and so much more. They supported the Arts obviously, giving the city two beloved, bronze lions who perpetually stand guard over city facilities and wear funny hats now and then. 

Mabel and EJ sculptures on either side of entrance to parking lot with city hall in background.

Mabel and E.J. standing guard at City Hall location. Photo credit: Ceci Vasconcellos

Rubber Ducks blog is brought to you by the Las Cruces Public Art program to share ideas, information, discussions, trends, and all things public art. Please send comments and ideas for future blogs to PublicArt@las-cruces.org.

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