The Las Cruces Museum of Art



The Las Cruces Museum of Art was founded in 1999 and is one of a total of four historical and cultural institutions that are part of the city’s museum system. Its primary mission is to collect and exhibit 2D and 3D works of art that are created by artists living and working throughout the Southwest.

“To my mind, the Las Cruces Museum of Art is extremely important,” said Dr. Kent Jacobs, a retired dermatologist from Las Cruces who is also a member of the Museum of New Mexico Board of Regents. “This region has a fine artistic community that has been impacted by the culture found in our area of the state. The museum focuses on us.”

Located in downtown Las Cruces, close to two of the city’s other museums–the Las Cruces Railroad Museum and the Branigan Cultural Center–the Las Cruces Museum of Art has more than 3,000 square feet of gallery space as well as a full ceramics studio with gas and electric kilns, a weaving studio, a large painting studio and two multi-purpose classrooms that support a developing studio arts program.

Several full time and part time employees and more than a dozen volunteers help director Lisa Pugh and curator Joy Miller keep operations running smoothly at this busy museum that drew more than 67,000 visitors during the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

Las Cruces Convention and Visitors Bureau media and public relations manager Chris Faivre isn’t surprised that the visitor count is so high and constantly growing.

“For more than a decade I’ve watched the museum become a premier attraction in Las Cruces,” he explained. “It’s one reason that visitors come to Las Cruces.”
The Las Cruces Museum of Art hosts juried shows, one-artist invitationals, traveling exhibits and shows featuring work by area students. Exhibits change five or six times a year.

Representational painter Rigoberto Gonzalez from Harlingen, Texas was delighted that the museum featured 15 of his paintings in a 2010 solo show titled “Baroque on the Border.” A former participant in the Roswell Artist Residency Program, Gonzalez explores contemporary issues affecting residents along the U.S./Mexico border through his Baroque-inspired oil paintings.


“I am very grateful that the Las Cruces Museum of Art took a chance and showed my work,” Gonzalez said. “It’s not the kind of work that can be shown everywhere. A good stream of people came to the opening reception. I felt the paintings were well-received.”

Occasionally, the museum collaborates with other cultural institutions when presenting exhibitions. “New Mexico: 100 Years of Art” is a show of works by living and deceased New Mexico artists that opened on February 3 (2012) and includes art on loan from the New Mexico Museum of Art, the Albuquerque Museum and the El Paso Museum of Art. After leaving the Las Cruces Museum of Art on April 14, the show travels to the Carlsbad Museum & Art Center, where it will be on exhibit until the middle of August.

The museum’s 2012 exhibition schedule includes shows by Las Cruces high school students in April and by seniors who are graduating from the bachelor of fine arts program at New Mexico State University in May. The museum displays large-scale watercolors of the ocotillo cactus by Las Cruces resident Lynn Wiley and light-hearted paintings that examine the Mexican-American culture by Las Cruces/Albuquerque resident Gabriel Perez in June and July.


Late summer and early fall shows highlight charcoal works on paper by Los Alamos resident Carol Meine, sculpture and drawings by Sara D’Alessandro from Santa Fe and Harriet Russell from Cuba, a mixed-media installation by Marianne McGrath of Austin, Texas, and small-scale works by six Las Cruces painters who are part of the art collective Praxis Net.

“Latino Folk Tales,” a two-month show opening on the 2012 fall solstice, features illustrations by 10 award-winning artists of Latino descent. The year ends with “Las Cruces Collects,” an exhibit that offers a rare look into the private art collections of Las Cruces area residents and includes artworks ranging from the Old Masters to American contemporary.

Every two years the museum hosts “From the Ground Up,” which is a 12-week-long exhibition of ceramic works by Rocky Mountain regional artists. The next show opens in September 2013.

Las Cruces Museum of Art also is committed to bringing quality traveling exhibits to town. The museum’s most recent traveling exhibit was “NASA/ART: 50 Years of Exploration,” which encompassed drawings, photographs and sculpture from collections belonging to NASA and the National Air and Space Museum. The Las Cruces Museum of Art was one of 13 museums in the United States to host this exhibition. It opened in November 2011 and closed in January (2012).

Miller is delighted that the museum will be presenting “Floating World: Ukiyo-E Prints,” a traveling exhibit of 50 woodblock prints created during Japan’s Edo Period (1600-1868) that belong to the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art in Laurel, Mississippi, in July 2013.

“Hosting traveling exhibits is a unique opportunity to put works from public and private collections into distinctive contexts,” said Miller. “The nature of these specially-curated shows also makes possible the viewing of works that otherwise may have gone unseen by a broader public. It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to bring world-class exhibitions to the Las Cruces area.”

Viewing great art inspires developing professionals and enthusiastic amateurs to try their hands at creating a masterpiece. The museum’s studio arts program currently features classes for youth and adults in drawing, painting, ceramics and weaving. Up to 10 art instructors are on contract to teach classes that are offered on a rotating basis.

“Our instructors are professional artists, and many of them are also professional art educators,” said Pugh. “We have a core group we’ve been working with for years. Our ever-expanding studio program will continue to grow and perhaps even include sculpture and printmaking classes.”

Studio classes are one way that the Las Cruces Museum of Art reaches out to the community. The museum also provides a valuable community service by hosting visits from elementary through high school students.

“I love seeing the kids’ eyes light up when I take them on tours of exhibits,” said Las Cruces resident and museum docent Toby DeVoss. “Visiting the museum gives the kids a chance to connect with art, which may be so remote from their daily lives. I see how the experience of being in the museum helps them appreciate art in general. I’m so happy we have such a fine museum in this small community.”

Pugh is excited about the museum’s future and sees it as taking on an even greater role in the community.

“We will continue to forge collaborations with other museums within the state and in other states that help us present great art experiences for all,” she said. “I see a brilliant future for the Las Cruces Museum of Art.”

Emily Van Cleve is a Santa Fe-based freelance writer who has contributed feature articles to many local, regional and national publications, including the Albuquerque Journal, Art of the West magazine and others.


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