“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”
– Edgar Degas
On the first Friday of every month, a new art exhibit opens at Cruces Creatives as part of the Downtown Art Ramble. Over the past year, most of the exhibits have been for beauty and enjoyment— on September 6, the art show also aimed to help protect the environment.
This special exhibit was part of a partnership with the Meetings for Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture (MESA) Project, which draws on grant funding from ArtPlace America to host free gourmet meals where stakeholders in the agricultural sector can share knowledge and make business and research partnerships (especially for projects that reduce water use, protect soils, or bring other environmental and economic benefits). So far, the MESA Project has used culinary arts to bring together over 250 farmers, ranchers, agricultural scientists, policy makers, chefs, food distributors, and other stakeholders in the local agricultural system; the MESA Art Show, open to everyone, used culinary, visual, and performing arts to spur reflection and discussions about the connections among agriculture, the environment, and our community in Doña Ana County.
Like every MESA event, food was a big part of the MESA Art Show. Chala’s Wood Fired Grill brought a smorgasbord of tapas—goat cheese and tomato tarts, roasted vegetables, roasted sausage; cream cheese, pecan, and green chile; and more—many of which were made with locally sourced ingredients.
Of course, the main event of the night was the revealing of two art exhibits: “This Land” by Deborah Burian and the “MESA Art Show” itself, by multiple local artists. Both exhibits shared the purpose to bring attention to the intersections between environment and agriculture; to remind us of where our food comes from as well as the need to protect our lands and our natural beauties. Whether the art pieces were paintings, panoramas, or sculptures with punny titles, the two exhibits brought a combined beauty that brought a wondrous question: why do we take our world, what it offers, and those who work its ground for granted?
One of the exhibits also incorporated an interactive element. On a wall, multiple pictures of the same empty garden were lined up in rows. Sharpies of various colors were lined up to the right of them, and above them, “Draw what you would like to see grow!” was painted on the wall. The empty plots soon became filled throughout the night, some people drawing real plants and others drawing plants from fiction or just their imagination. Others didn’t draw plants at all, rather drawing things like rockets, UFOs with aliens, or drew the Organ Mountains in the photo’s background. Using a purple sharpie, I drew a grape vine, adding a more simple but fun picture to the collection. Although at first just a assembly of the same photo, the wall would soon showcase a flourishing garden of creativity.
The participatory mural was a popular section of the event for adults and kids alike as we all worked together to finish it. The mural was paint-by-numbers, allowing everyone to help paint no matter their artistic experience, and depicted various fruits and vegetables sprawled across the break-room wall. I helped fill in the black outline of one of such fruits to find that I should have been less focused on the concept of paint-by-numbers and more on the concept of paint-within-the-lines. No matter my own unsteady hand, the mural turned out to be a fun and colorful piece of art that is both enjoyable to look at and enjoyable to reminisce about. It certainly adds some vibrancy to the Cruces Creative break-room!
The music was particularly compelling and would be my personal favorite part of the event. Before and after the open-mic, the musical duo, The Old-Time Pharmaceuticals, kept the audience’s ears filled with nature-themed traditional ballads and original songs that were often catchy to the point that it was hard to not sing along, although later there would be a few melodies with the invitation to the audience to do so. The open-mic itself led to a variety of singers and performers with various instruments, providing songs of various topics, such as love, mourning and remembrance, nostalgia, and hope. Whether by The Old-Time Pharmaceuticals or the volunteer performers, the night was filled with songs of nature, farm life, lullabies, and sea shanties in the quiet desert.
No matter shown through the voice of a song or through the paint on a canvas, art and the celebration of it remained the focus of the night. Each exhibit showed pieces that reflected the values and stories of the artists, but more importantly brought out the values and stories of we who saw them as we found our own meanings in them and merged them with the artists’ to create something new. Each piece brought something new to the collection, and it was a privilege to be able to be one of the first to see them revealed.
Overall, the MESA Art Show was a fantastic time of exportation and wonder, starting September off not with a bang but with song. I was able to meet so many new people in our community in a short amount of time, being able to bond over a common interest in the appreciation of art, as we shared in the great food and great company that the event offered.