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Regenerative agriculture--which works with natural cycles by maintaining living root systems, minimizing disturbances, keeping soils covered, maximizing biodiversity, and considering local conditions--can prevent topsoil loss (Wall et al., 1991), address climate change by capturing carbon in soils (Sherrod et al., 2003; Lal, 2004) , increase soil water infiltration and water retention (Dlamini et al., 2016; Toosi et al., 2017), reduce the need for inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides (Litsinger and Moody, 1976; Scott et al., 1987; Brown et al.,1993; Ochsner et al., 2010), while increasing profitability for farmers and ranchers through increased yields and/or reduced input costs (Ziyomo et al., 2013).
To help promote the adoption of regenerative agricultural practices throughout New Mexico, Cruces Creatives was awarded a $30,000 grant from the Thornburg Foundation and McCune Charitable Foundation, with the primary goal of developing a comprehensive theory of change that could be implemented through a follow-up grant that would provide significantly more funding.
Over the course of the planning grant, which ran from January to October 2019, Cruces Creatives and its partners achieved the following results:
We were also able to identify several significant obstacles to the spread of regenerative agriculture, obstacles that we could address in future work.
As revealed in interviews with Seed Group members, surveys of farmers and ranchers involved in the MESA Project, the statements of expert regenerative agricultural practitioners and consultants (such as Gabe Brown, Ray Archuleta, and Rudy Garcia), and a review of business and marketing literature, a central obstacle to the spread of regenerative agriculture is the lack of knowledge about how to apply the general principles of regenerative agriculture under specific local conditions. In interviews, Seed Group members identified the lack of such knowledge as the primary obstacle they face, a finding that was mirrored in surveys of MESA Project participants, for whom the lack of localized knowledge was the most commonly cited obstacle (Appendix C). All Seed Group members reported having to experiment significantly with regenerative agricultural techniques and technologies; the techniques don’t simply work. Expert consultants such as Gabe Brown, Ray Archuleta, and Rudy Garcia confirm that this is the normal state of affairs. As Rudy Garcia attested at the Soil Healthy Workshop in Las Cruces on October 22, “The principles are universal. The tricky part is . . . context.”
The need for regenerative agricultural practices to be reinvented locally is slowing the adoption of regenerative agriculture even among producers who are willing and able to invest in the experiments required to get regenerative agriculture to work under their specific conditions: each and every technique must be reinvented, and progress at that can be slow. As Gabe Brown advised would-be practitioners at the Las Cruces Soil Health workshop, “You will fail.” Success requires a long process of experimentation and learning. Worse, scientific literature from the fields of business and marketing suggest that, until regenerative agricultural techniques simply work—without the need for experimentation or trial-and-error—regenerative agriculture will not spread beyond the small subset of producers who have the interest, time, expertise, and capital to experiment (Moore, 2014, pp. 24-26, 56, 58, 62). For practices and technologies to succeed in the mainstream market, they have to just work.
Technologies that support regenerative agriculture are also, for the most part, at an early phase of development. Farmers and ranchers report that regenerative agricultural technologies, like regenerative agricultural principles, generally require experimentation and an ongoing learning process.
From scientific literature and the testimony of producers in Seed Groups and the MESA Project, social pressures are also a barrier. Regenerative agriculture is not a normal practice within the agricultural sector, so it faces the same obstacles that confront any deviation from a largely homogenous social system—socially, norms are supported, and counter-normative practices are suppressed. In a further impediment, sustainable/regenerative/organic agriculture are associated with liberal political values and beliefs. Since most farmers and ranchers are not politically liberal, producers may not adopt alternative practices even when there are no knowledge barriers and the alternative practices are more profitable (Press, 2014).
On the topic of politics, policies may deter or fail to adequately promote regenerative agriculture. The New Mexico Healthy Soils Act was a significant step in the right direction, but producers still report frustration with many policies, which often were not developed with regenerative agricultural practices in mind.
The relative unusualness of regenerative agriculture also introduces challenges in market development, from regulatory issues to supply chain creation and management. In conventional systems, marketing processes and channels are known; in regenerative agricultural systems, producers often need to develop not only new agricultural practices, but also new marketing and distribution systems.
It is important to note that, although regenerative agricultural principles are interconnecting and mutually reinforcing, regenerative agriculture is a continuum. It is possible to implement one or several regenerative agricultural principles without implementing others. This fact makes it possible to productively target solvable obstacles to particular regenerative agricultural principles, producing incremental progress toward the mainstream adoption of regenerative agricultural principles as a whole.
To address these obstacles, Cruces Creatives has applied for follow-up funding from the Thornburg Foundation and the McCune Charitable Foundation. Over the course of two years, Cruces Creatives and a team of partner organizations would work to address the obstacles to regenerative agriculture, focusing especially on helping regenerative agriculture thrive within concentrated socio-geographic areas.
Our plan for change, in essence, is modeled on how beneficial adaptations can originate and spread through ecological communities: a small group, well positioned for change, adapts; the adaptation proves beneficial; the adapted individuals interact with other individuals; and the adaptation spreads. In many instances of social behavior, groups follow “tipping point” theory, and once a small, critical mass of practitioners has been reached, a new behavior can quickly spread through an entire group. Our goal is to build regenerative agriculture in New Mexico toward its tipping point, starting from socio-geographic areas concentrated around the Seed Groups established in the planning phase (centered, roughly, within a radius of about an hour of driving time from Santa Fe and an hour of driving time from Las Cruces). We will work to make regenerative agriculture the dominant practice within socio-geographically defined market segments, from which regenerative agriculture can spread.
To succeed, we must address the obstacles to regenerative agriculture, we have planned a mutually reinforcing, systemic approach that draws on four key areas of intervention: Seed Groups, technology development, Meetings for Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture (MESA) events, and scientific research.
A. Seed Groups
Seed Groups are geographically concentrated, long-term cohorts of regenerative agricultural practitioners who meet regularly for peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, networking, and support. Seed Group members meet, on average, once per month for a workshop or a participant-led field day, followed by a meal.
Figure 1. Seed Group members at a field day workshop on soil contouring for passive rainwater harvest
The Seed Groups provide multiple benefits for their members and for regenerative agriculture. Within the Seed Groups, which are concentrated geographically, many producers have part of the puzzle for how to apply regenerative principles under local conditions. By bringing these practitioners together into a supporting network of friends and collaborators, we can help producers put their knowledge together and learn from each other about how regenerative agriculture can be implemented locally. In the pilot phase of the Seed Groups, which ran for six months (May-October), over 85% of participants reported being able to implement new regenerative practices, thanks to peer-to-peer knowledge sharing.
Thanks to field days, where a Seed Group member familiar with a regenerative practice invites other participants to a barn-raising style event to expand that practice, over 85% of participants were also able to expand regenerative practices that they had already implemented to some extent on their farms or ranches—while teaching other farmers and ranchers how to do the same. Since learning requires spaced repetition, the field days are designed to be iterative, with events of the same type (e.g., filling Johnson-Su composting bioreactors) often spiraling out through participants, who can share what they learn from each iteration.
The Seed Groups also offer social support, since within the Seed Group, regenerative agriculture is the norm. This inverts the social pressures of the mainstream market, creating an environment where positive social pressure supports progress on regenerative agriculture. The resulting social network also provides a rich environment for business and research partnerships, which—like the establishment/expansion of regenerative practices—over 85% of participants reported developing through the project.
The direct goal of the Seed Groups is to create subsections of the agricultural sector, concentrated geographically and socially, within which local practices for regenerative agriculture are known and social pressures support regenerative agriculture. In other words, the goal is to create sectors of the market within which regenerative agriculture is the new normal. These successes, created within the Seed Groups, can then be spread through the larger market through participants’ social networks, through the involvement of neighboring farms and ranches, and through local marketing of Seed Group events.
B. Technology Development
From the 35 obstacles/desired technologies identified by Seed Group members, we have collaboratively chosen five obstacle/technology pairs to address during the implementation phase: a knowledge-gathering and sharing system for local instantiations of regenerative agricultural principles, easier-to-implement Johnson-Su composting bioreactors, simplified inoculation systems for the beneficial microbes produced by Johnson-Su composting bioreactors, cloud-connected soil temperature sensors, and a grain cleaning system for amaranth and other small grains.
As the technologies are developed, they will be shared with Seed Group members, who can use the technologies to facilitate regenerative agriculture at their sites while also testing the technologies and offering feedback. The feedback from Seed Group members will then be used to further refine the technologies until they are suitable for a mainstream market.
Within the work of the Zone Grant, the technologies will be developed primarily at Cruces Creatives, but lists of obstacles and desired technologies will also be shared with entrepreneurs in the network of the Arrowhead Center, facilitating product development on the open market.
During the planning grant, the Cruces Creatives team was able to develop/improve working prototypes for the soil temperature sensors and the amaranth grain cleaner. If the initial list of 5 target technologies chosen during the planning grant is completed ahead of schedule, we may collaboratively choose additional, even more ambitious technical challenges to address.
C. Scientific Research
As Seed Group members implement and progressively expand their regenerative agricultural practices, their farms and ranchers will offer excellent sites for scientifically investigating the impacts of regenerative agriculture under a range of localized conditions. The resulting data can offer valuable feedback to Seed Group members and serve as demonstrable, quantitative evidence for farmers and ranchers socially and/or geographically adjacent to Seed Group members, to whom regenerative practices can spread. The results may also develop into publishable findings.
Scientific research funded in the implementation phase would be led by personnel from the Sustainable Agricultural Science Center at Alcalde, who would perform baseline testing on the lands of Seed Group members, install monitoring equipment on the lands of Seed Group members, work with Seed Group members to set up simple experimental/control conditions on the land, and train Seed Group members in soil sampling approaches.
Several of the current Seed Group members also have advanced degrees in science and agriculture, and they are well positioned to use Seed Group resources and connections to launch additional scientific inquiries. For examples, see the work of Starrlight Augustine and Rachael Ryan in “Achievements.”
D. MESA Events
MESA Events are multi-course gourmet meals, prepared by local chefs drawing heavily on local ingredients, that bring together stakeholders from all sectors of the agricultural system: farmers, ranchers, agricultural scientists, chefs, policy makers, restauranteurs, grocery store and co-op owners/managers, farm supply store owners, etc. At MESA events, anyone who feels they have a stake is invited to “Have a Seat at the Table.” The MESA events began in 2017 as an avenue for networking and knowledge-sharing, and in the planning phase of the Zone Grant, the MESA network served as a valuable recruitment channel for Seed Group members in the southern part of the state. Through further MESA events, conducted in both the northern and southern parts of the state, we would be able to expand the network of Seed Group members.
Through the Zone Grant, we also learned that a large network of agricultural stakeholders, of the sort put together by MESA, can be very useful for policy improvements: as reported by Jeff Goebel, a leader of the Healthy Soil Working Group that developed the successful 2019 Healthy Soils Act, support from the MESA network helped sway the votes of key committee members in the southern part of the state, who ultimately recommended that the Healthy Soils Act move forward. Building on this finding, we plan to use MESA events during the implementation phase to host consensus-driven discussions on possible policy improvements that would support regenerative agriculture. The discussions would be coordinated by staff from the Healthy Soil Working Group. The resulting policy proposals, crafted by consensus among stakeholders from all sectors of the agricultural system, would be able to rally support from stakeholders in all sectors of the agricultural system, increasing the likelihood of successful passage into law.
In an additional benefit, the broad cross-section of stakeholders created by MESA events offers productive opportunities for market development. For instance, through surveys at previous MESA events, we have identified a network of 26 farmers and 15 chefs who are interested in cultivating and cooking unconventional but environmentally friendly crops, such as amaranth. A handful of partnerships has developed independently through this network, but support from a coordinator/facilitator, which proved essential in arranging Seed Group field days, could significantly accelerate market development for regenerative agriculture through the MESA network. In the implementation phase, the project coordinator would therefore work to help interested parties turn their partnership interests into realities.
Brown, R.W., G.E. Varvel, and C.A. Shapiro. 1993. Residual effects of inter-seeded hairy vetch on soil nitrate-nitrogen levels. Soil Sei. Soc. Am. J. 57:121-124.
Enache, A.J., and R.D. Ilnicki. 1990. Weed control by subterranean clover (Trifolium subterraneum) used as a living mulch. Weed Technol. 4:534-538.
Lal, R. (2004). Soil carbon sequestration impacts on global climate change and food security. science, 304(5677), 1623-1627.
Litsinger, J.A., and K. Moody. 1976. Integrated pest management in multiple cropping systems. In: R.I. Papendiek, editor, Multiple cropping. ASA Spec. Publ. 27. ASA, CSS A, and SSSA, Madison, WI. p. 239-316.
Moore, G. (2014). Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Technologies to Mainstream Customers, 3rd ed. HarperCollins.
Press, M., Arnould, E. J., Murray, J. B., & Strand, K. (2014). Ideological challenges to changing strategic orientation in commodity agriculture. Journal of Marketing, 78(6), 103-119.
Scott, T.W., J. Mt. Pleasant, R.F. Burt, and D.J. Otis. 1987. Contributions of ground cover, dry matter, and nitrogen from intercrops and cover crops in a corn polyculture system. Agron. J. 79:792-798.
Sherrod, L. A., Peterson, G. A., Westfall, D. G., & Ahuja, L. R. (2003). Cropping intensity enhances soil organic carbon and nitrogen in a no-till agroecosystem. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 67(5), 1533-1543.
Toosi, E., et al. (2017). Effects of management and pore characteristics on organic matter composition of macroaggregates: evidence from characterization of organic matter and imaging. European Journal of Soil Science, 68(2), 200–211.
Wall, G.L., W.A. Pringle, and R.W. Sheard. 1991. Intercropping red clover with silage corn for soil erosion control. Can. J. Soil Sei. 71:137-145.
Ziyomo, C., Albrecht, K. A., Baker, J. M., & Bernardo, R. (2013). Corn performance under managed drought stress and in a kura clover living mulch intercropping system. Agronomy Journal, 105(3), 579-586.
Obstacles to Regenerative Agriculture and Desired Technologies,
as Reported by Seed Group Members
Obstacles (ordered by frequency of reporting, with the most commonly reported obstacles at the top)
Seed Group Events during the Planning Phase
October 14-16. Waste shredding and bioreactor filling with temperature sensors. 5 Seed Group members, 6 guests.
September 26: Technology selection conference call. 7 Seed Group members.
September 25: Bioreactor assembly. 7 Seed Group members, 3 guests
August 28: Land contouring for passive rainwater harvest. 7 Seed Group members, 7 guests
August 23-25: Scrub oak clearing, waste shredding, rock dam construction, pasture mulching, and pasture re-seeding with native grass mix. 5 Seed Group members, 2 guests.
August 14: Half-height bioreactor filling: 5 Seed Group members.
July 12: Bioreactor assembly workshop. 5 Seed Group members, 2 guests.
June 18: Bioreactor assembly workshop. 4 Seed Group members, 8 guests.
June 8: Bioreactor assembly workshop. 4 Seed Group members.
June 7: Northern Seed Group kickoff dinner. 6 Seed Group members, 3 guests.
June 4: Bioreactor assembly workshop. 5 Seed Group members.
June 1: Bioreactor assembly workshop. 12 Seed Group members.
May 28: Drip system design for jujube orchard. 4 Seed Group members.
May 27: Southern Seed Group kickoff dinner. 13 Seed Group members.
Holiday Tree with Custom Art
At this Friday’s Art Ramble, you can support Cruces Creatives will getting a gorgeous holiday tree that features over 30 one-of-a-kind paintings and sewn ornaments created by 12 local artists. The tree and all of its lovely, custom ornaments will be available through silent and not-so-silent auction until the end of this Friday’s Art Ramble, and all proceeds support your community makerspace.
Cruces Creatives to be Recognized in City Declaration
On November 4, Mayor Miyagishima will be delivering a proclamation declaring November “Species in Peril Along the Rio Grande Awareness Month.” Alongside several other organizations, Cruces Creatives will be recognized in the declaration for its work on the “By the Dam” mural.
Grant Update: Seeding Regenerative Agriculture Project
Last November 15, this newsletter announced Cruces Creatives’s first grant award: a project, funded by the Thornburg Foundation and McCune Charitable Foundation, for work with farmers, ranchers, and agricultural scientists to identify and address obstacles to regenerative agriculture (an approach to farming and ranching that can offer both environmental and economic benefits by cultivating ecosystem health from the soils up). Within the project, Cruces Creatives has been responsible for technology development and coordinating the efforts of the different groups and skill sets involved. The project finishes this week, and it has been a tremendous success!
Over 85% of the farmers and ranchers participating in the project reported that they were able to implement new regenerative agriculture practices and expand their existing regenerative practices thanks to their participation, and the technology team at Cruces Creatives has been able to develop both a cloud-connected soil temperature sensor and a grain cleaner for amaranth seeds, which are native and extremely drought tolerant. Thanks to the Thornburg Foundation and the McCune Charitable Foundation for making this work possible!
Local artists Raquel Madrigal and Henry Hartig have finished the mural “By the Dam” on the north side of Cruces Creatives, and it looks great! The mural is part of a bi-national art exhibit, “Species in Peril Along the Rio Grande.”
Figure 1. Participants at a grant workshop on land contouring for passive rainwater harvest
Figure 2. An amaranth grain cleaner
Figure 3. "By the Dam"
Scouts at the Makerspace!
Multiple partnership programs with the Scouts are launching this fall, starting with workshops on Cubmobiles! Every Thursday evening through October 24, teams of Scouts and adults will be using the makerspace wood shop to build or repair Cubmobiles in preparation for races on Nov. 2. Several further partnerships are in development--including pinewood derby, naturally.
STEAM Program Update
A quick and happy update on the STEAM Team programs for 4th and 5th graders: through work on conductive, interactive alebrijes, student participants are learning circuity and programming in conjunction with arts and life science. In preparation for the project, the students studied multiple animal species, then used their imaginations and paper mache to make whimsical chimeras: alebrijes. The students also designed the alebrijes to include circuitry and conductive touchpoints connected to computer programs via Makey Makey kits, so when the conductive areas are touched, the alebrijes might make noises, or their LED eyes might light up. It's amazing what kids can do!
Paint-by-Numbers Mural at Branigan Library this Weekend!
The free mural-painting events at Branigan Library are this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday! Thanks to the paint-by-numbers design, anybody can help paint, regardless of artistic ability. Bring the family and come on out!
Pecha Kucha at Cruces Creatives?
Twenty slides, twenty seconds per slide: that’s Pecha Kucha. It’s like an accelerated TED Talk, with topics ranging across art, science, business—any form of creativity, really. You can learn more about this engaging and informative presentation style at www.pechakucha.com.
Pecha Kucha events are currently hosted in over 1,000 cities worldwide, including El Paso, but there isn’t yet a Pecha Kucha group in Las Cruces. How about we start one, hosted at Cruces Creatives? We have the creativity, we have the space, we have the stage and sound system and projector. All we need is a program organizer. If you think that might be you, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“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.
Powerful New Software Available for 3D Printing, Laser Cutting, and CNC
The makerspace 3D printers, CNC machines, and laser cutter just got even more useful! Cruces Creatives now has an educational license for LuBan, a software program that post-processes 3D files. In an especially useful feature, it can break apart large designs and allow them to be printed in multiple pieces. LuBan is available on the 3D printing computer in the electronics lab, and training will be available shortly!
Paint-by-Numbers Community Mural--Next Weekend!
You can help paint a mural at Branigan Library! As part of Mural Month,Cruces Creatives is hosting three free workshops to create a mural using a paint-by-numbers approach on Friday, September 27; Saturday, September 28; and Sunday, September 29. Special thanks to the Rumphius Foundation, which funded the project, and local artist Eugenia “AO” Carmona, who developed the design. For more information about this series of events and Mural Month in general, visit http://www.crucescreatives.org/news/7888299.
Paint-by-Numbers Mural (Break Room), FREE, through Sep. 29
STEAM Team Programming for 4th and 5th Graders, FREE, Sep. 21
Crochet Snowflakes, FREE, Sep. 21
Community Bike Shop, Sep. 21
Writers Workshop, FREE, Sep. 21
Homeschool Science Grades 3-6, Sep. 24
Las Cruces Sew Fun Club, Sep. 24
Beginning Drawing and Painting, FREE first class, Sep. 24
Charitable Woodworking: Doghouses, BY SUPPLY DONATION, Sep. 24
STEAM Team Programming for 4th and 5th Graders (Half-Year Program), FREE, Sep. 24
Mayfield Young Adult Learners, Sep. 25
Youth Art Classes Ages 8-12, FREE first class, Sep. 25
Youth Art Classes Ages 13-18, FREE first class, Sep. 25
Community Bike Shop, Sep. 26
Homeschool History (Hands-on Learning) Grades 3-6, Sep. 26
Intermediate Drawing and Painting, FREE first class, Sep. 26
(Field Trip) 2D to 3D: Origami World, Sep. 27
FiberArts Friday, FREE to members, Sep. 27
Paint-by-Numbers Community Mural, FREE, Sep. 27
Community Bike Shop, Sep. 28
Charitable Crafting Project, FREE, Sep. 28
STEAM Team Programming for 4th and 5th Graders, FREE, Sep. 28
Paint-by-Numbers Community Mural, FREE, Sep. 28
Paint-by-Numbers Community Mural, FREE, Sep. 29
Intro to Bikes and Bike Tools, Sep. 21
Basic Wood Shop Safety Training, FREE to members, Sep. 25
Intro to Bikes and Bike Tools, Sep. 28
Call for Artists: Miniature Paintings and Fiber Arts Ornaments, through October 19
Members get 10% off all paid events, entry to member-only events, plus access to tools, space, community and more.
Phone: (575) 448-1072, Address: 205 E Lohman Ave | NM 88001
Welcome to Mural Month at the makerspace! Over the coming several weeks, four different mural projects are underway through Cruces Creatives, and you can help paint two of them! Check out more details below:
Murals to Participate In
With generous funding from the Rumphius Foundation and a community-chosen design created by artist Eugenia “AO” Carmona, people of all ages and artistic abilities can come together and make a mural on the amphitheater wall of the Thomas Branigan Memorial Library (200 E Picacho Avenue)! The mural is in a paint-by-numbers style, and all needed materials and supplies are provided, so you can help create a mural!
Here's the schedule for painting:
You’re welcome to join for all or part of any painting day. Bring water, sun protection, and clothes you wouldn’t mind painting.
Break Room Mural
Any time Cruces Creatives is open this month, you can sign in as a volunteer (no membership needed!) and use the supplies in the break room to help create another paint-by-numbers mural that is brightening the break room wall. Just wear clothes you wouldn't mind getting paint on. All ages and artistic abilities are welcome!
This mural was designed by local artist Victor Beckman, with funding provided by the MESA Project and ArtPlace America.
Murals to Watch For
In addition to the participatory, paint-by-numbers murals, two more murals are going up at the makerspace!
Cruces Creatives West Wall
Thanks to a generous donation from Donna Tate via the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico, and thanks to the time and talents of SABA and a team of volunteer artists, the mural work on the west well of Cruces Creatives will be resuming soon!
Species in Peril Along the Rio Grande
As part of a series of bi-national art events along the Rio Grande in the U.S. and Mexico, “Species in Peril Along the Rio Grande,” artists Raquel Madrigal and Henry Hartig will be painting a mural on the north side of Cruces Creatives. Funding is provided through the generous support of the MESA Project and ArtPlace America, in direct partnership with the New Mexico State University Art Museum.
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For more information or to register for the participatory events, visit the links below. (Note: Registration isn’t required, just helpful.)
As I started the drive to Cruces Creatives, my thoughts could have only been summarized as this: a long string of panicked words that all just so happened to consist of the same, single letter – A.
It had started with an email from my work-study supervisor asking me to come and finish some paperwork. It was a bit short notice; they wanted me to come in that morning, and I had already signed up for the Basic Wood Shop Safety Training at Cruces Creatives as well. However, since the training started at 10:30, I thought I could make it.
I could not make it—especially since, when I double-checked the email confirming my registration for the safety training, I realized that the class started at 10:00.
It was 10:40 when I finally walked into the building. By the time it had taken to go from the front desk to the woodworking room, I had gifted a string of frantic apologies and rushed excuses to two separate people, and I certainly gave the same string to the instructor.
The three men at the woodworking station were Gary, Dave, and Richard. Gary was the course’s main instructor, and Dave and Richard added to the course with the occasional comment as well as through their examples.
The woodworking shop had a comfortable atmosphere, brightened by the soft smell of sawdust floating gently through the air, that helped to still the frantic balls of string unraveling in my mind until they rolled back up into functional thought in the few moments before the class began. The class went by quickly, the panic that had previously settled my lungs quickly being replaced with a strong curiosity for the shop’s equipment and a genuine enjoyment of knowledge that would be old and common to anyone with experience in woodworking but new to me.
My only previous experience in wood working was a one-time encounter with a compound miter saw, so my knowledge of woodworking was limited to vague notions and descriptions of fictional characters whittling in books. Although this training would not make me anything more than a beginner, it certainly corrected misconceptions and taught the more important principles to safe woodworking.
I learned many different rules for maintaining safety regulations, most of which connected back to these four main points:
If you used a tool without making sure that the fence (a part of certain saws; a slab of metal that moves up or down that can both help keep the wood where it needs to be and keep the blade safely covered) was down to where it needed to be or whether the guard was positioned correctly (etc.), there was a risk that the wood might jump up or slide along with other dangerous errors that might result in something worse than just damaging your project. In example, when working with the table saw, Gary emphasized that if you weren’t careful to use it properly, a piece of wood could shoot back, potentially hitting you or someone else behind you, resulting in likely injury. Gary, understandably, emphasized using the table saw properly.
I was taught about various tools, starting with routers. Gary showed me the hand routers, but we mainly worked with the table router. Explaining that these tools were used to work on the edges of wood, likely for ornamental purposes, Gary demonstrated how to use the table router before letting me have a turn. I also was told about different bits that could be used to create a different effect on the wood and was shown how to raise and lower the bit in order to make a deeper or shallower groove.
The next tools shown to me were the band saw and the scroll saw, which could both be used to make an angled or curved cut to different extents, with the band saw making wider curves and the scroll saw being able to make much sharper angles and turns.
The scroll saw was particularly fun. With Gary’s help, I learned how to use it to make sharper angles and more detailed cuts that could make turns and circles, as well as how to lower the guard to ensure that the wood didn’t jump. This was a tool that Gary had in his home as well, and he said that in his own time to make things like puzzles. Once I’d used the saw for the first time, he congratulated me, saying, “You’ve made your first jigsaw!”
Once we moved on to the table saw, it was particularly impressive simply for its size as the danger around it kept me a bit wary. I was told that it was not necessary to fear it so much as have a good amount of respect for it, and to make sure to use a pushstick, a tool that could be used to push the wood into the saw so that one’s fingers could be kept far away from the blade. Gary gave the tip to use a long brick of scrap-wood as a second pushstick to keep the wood pressed up against the guard when necessary. After we had used it a couple of times, Gary emphasized the importance of making sure to lower the saw completely when you were done with it, and to push the guard over the blade once lowered.
The drill press was a piece of interest to me if only due to the importance of having what the three of them called “sacrificial wood,” or a slab of wood kept on top of the metal plate to ensure that once the drill went through the piece of wood one’s using, the metal plate isn’t hit and damaged.
Some tools were shown but not practiced with, possibly due to time constraints, such as the planer, the sanders, and the lathe. I was also given a tour of where they kept some of the smaller tools that did not have a stationary position in the shop, all items having a place to call home once they were done being used.
Another important lesson was taught in the training, though perhaps not on purpose: wood-shop etiquette. When about to use a tool as an example, Gary sometimes picked a piece of wood from the table as opposed to the scrap-pile. Whenever he did so, however, he would always make sure to ask whether Dave or Richard were using the wood for a project. When they were, Gary would immediately put it down and find an unclaimed piece. Similarly, Gary also made sure that neither Dave nor Richard were using a tool before he showed it to me. Their unanimous movement to make sure to respect each other’s spaces and projects whenever possible definitely seemed to contribute to the shop’s pleasant, convivial atmosphere.
Although Gary was the main instructor, I have a good deal of gratitude for Dave and Richard, who both made sure that all of the tools were running smoothly before we got to them. The compound miter saw and the table saw were both experiencing slight problems which Gary said were likely attributable to too much sawdust or a small wood chunk getting stuck somewhere in the saws’ interiors. Richard and Dave made sure to fix the two saws quickly and cheerfully.
The wood-shop meets many visitors who use it, both in classes and out. With so much use, the tools can more quickly need maintenance to keep them working properly and safely. Every tool in the shop was donated to Cruces Creatives, and we are all so lucky to be able to have them available to the community so that beautiful and fantastic projects an continue to be made. As such, there is incredible, deserved appreciation for everyone who ensures that the wood-shop continues to run the way it should by keeping the tools running well.
I had the privilege of seeing some of the objects that had been made at the woodworking shop, including a bowl Gary had made and another bowl he was in progress of finishing with the lathe. Other projects made by the three men were picture frames that had been cut with the compound miter saw, a wooden figure of a hand that had been cut with the band saw, and a beautiful Christmas ornament in the making.
I still regret having been unable to take the full two-hour course as I can only imagine how much better it would have been to have had that extra forty minutes to get acquainted with the various saws and drills. However, the time I did have was a fantastic introduction of concepts and tools to a complete beginner, setting up a solid foundation for any further learning in the future. If you, like myself, have an interest in woodworking but have never learned about it and perhaps don’t know where to begin, I would recommend this course and similar trainings.
I would also give the advice to arrive on time so that you don’t miss out on learning something. Not only is punctuality kinder on the instructors who take time out of their day to provide you with information, it will also make sure you learn the most possible information you can along with ensuring you avoid the stress of being late.
Everyone involved in the course at Cruces Creatives was very kind and patient with me despite my tardiness, however, so if you find yourself in a similar circumstance, you can find comfort in knowing that Cruces Creatives will do what they can to make sure you make the most of the time remaining.
VHS-to-Digital Converter Set Up in Computer Lab
Want to preserve your VHS before the tape falls off the reals? Come in and use the VHS digitizer that’s now set up in the main room computer lab! It’s free for members, and instructions are provided.
Another Way to Support the Makerspace
The “Donations” page of the Cruces Creatives website now supports recurring donations, Patreon-style! If you like what Cruces Creatives is doing, you can help with $1 a month, $5 a quarter, whatever feels right for you.
Everything helps. Especially while Cruces Creatives is growing the programs and memberships that will provide a stable financial base, your contributions can really make a difference for your community makerspace! To set up a recurring donation, visit https://crucescreatives.org/donate-money/.