Why Public Art?
One of my earliest recollections of public art is the giant roadrunner that sits vigilantly overlooking the City of Las Cruces at the rest stop on I-10 at the I-70 transition. This is not where I first encountered him. We crossed paths for the first time when I was with my dad in his old truck with a bed full of trash on our way to the landfill that is now the site of business complexes off Telshor Drive. As we drove up the hill towards the landfill, I saw this roadrunner grow and grow on the horizon as we got closer until he was larger than our truck. He was so awesome! He was sitting on the edge of Las Cruces, watching people dump their trash in that landfill. I had never seen anything like him, and I had a great story to tell when we returned home.
Fast forward many years later when I was living elsewhere. One day I was looking through a magazine and saw a picture of this huge roadrunner. It was my bird! I felt such pride that he was representing my hometown and I felt such homesickness for the place that was still home. Every time I returned to Las Cruces to visit family, I found the roadrunner had moved to a different spot in town (or so it seemed) but he was still impressive and held such a strong connection to my memories of growing up here.
It wasn’t until I moved back to Las Cruces that I learned the roadrunner was created by artist Olin Calk in 1993, and that he was made from recycled materials which the artist salvaged from the landfill. The very place where I first saw him. The sculpture, known simply as the Recycled Roadrunner, measures 20 feet tall and 40 feet long. As an iconic attraction of Las Cruces, it has been restored many times by the artist to maintain its awesomeness. He is a valued piece of sculpture in the City of Las Cruces public art collection.
Did my younger self know or care that the roadrunner was public art? Not so much. What did matter is that I loved looking at him. He inspired my imagination. He became a connection to home.
That is the power of public art and that is why a public art program is so important to communities. Public art has the potential to improve quality of life through creative expression, highlighting the city’s culture, creative community and creative economy; it can improve the visual identity of public spaces, and creates opportunities for the entire community to engage with art.
The Las Cruces Public Art Program’s mission is to commission more art that meets the goals of public art and to maintain the art that currently exists, so it continues to promote our community and bring art engagement to the residents of our city and visitors as well. Connection through art is a powerful thing; everyone should have their roadrunner.
Rubber Ducks is brought to you by the Las Cruces Public Art (LCPA) program to share ideas, information, discussions, trends and all things public art.
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