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Jardin de Mesquite was dedicated January 7, 2006 with speeches by local and state politicians and over 300 people attending the ceremony.

The costs of the project was nearly $300,000 and is the first of several projects that will take place in the Historic Mesquite District, the original town site of Las Cruces.

The Mesquite Historic District Ceramic Tile Mural Project

The Las Esperanzas garden project called Jardin de Mesquite was a two-year project in planning and securing funding for the ornamental park in Las Cruces. A committee composed of Las Esperanzas members, community members, university and community college staff and Court Youth Center artists met for a year of design work. It was during this that a tile mural project depicting the history of the community was conceived.

The art project was initiated in the summer of 2005 at the art studios of Court Youth Center/Alma díarte Charter High School (CYC/Alma). Lead artist Kenneth Wolverton directed it. Wolverton had been an artist in residence with CYC completing several collaborative art projects in Las Cruces and in the Las Cruces Public Schools. Wolverton has worked with CYC/Alma Founder and Executive Artistic Producer since 1986 when they first met in the Albuquerque art community. They share a mutual commitment to community public art and arts integration in non traditional spaces. It was because of this long-standing association Wolverton was asked to direct the community arts project centered in the Mesquite Historic District.

Wolverton worked with 19 CYC/Alma student artists, in an after school program. Through the city contract, the students were hired as youth art apprentices. 

The student artists were, David Carbajal, Carla Deemer, Terryn Estepp, Adrian Hallek, Sierra Garcia, Joshua Seth Gilette, Amy Kraft, Lorraine Lanning, Mallory Marshall, Alicia McGuire, Simone Meacham, Cierra Richards, Toni Riebe, Michelle Rodriguez, Neil Solberg, Sara Soto, Spencer Taylor, Nathan Tofsted and Nicollete Visanko.

There are eight ceramic tile panels measuring 6 X 8 feet spread across a wall 122 X 8 feet.

This ceramic tile mural project was a collaborative adventure which began with Las Esperanza's commitment to a community revival, where history would be honored and people of the district would be recognized and paid tribute.

In collaboration with Las Esperanza and CYC/Alma, Wolverton begun workshops with the 19 youth art apprentices who helped create the design and produced the finished ceramic tile mural.

The mural design went through a series of drawings workshops directed by Wolverton where the youth art apprentices used historic photos and texts from historic archives or submitted by Mesquite residents.

Wolverton created the final designs submitted to the Las Esperanza steering committee and on their approval the student artists transferred the designs to ceramic tiles, painted the under glaze and begin the process of being kiln fired twice.

The tiles were designed, painted, fired and assembled by late November 2005 with professional installation by the company of Jose Pena at the site from December 19 to 22, 2005. The opening of the park and mural was January 7, 2006, with some 300 people in attendance.

The eight panels are an historical narrative mural that combine text and images taken from actual photographic archives of the Mesquite district.

Panel 1: Pays tribute to the original and indigenous people of the original town site, who were the Piro-Manso Tiwa. These people are featured in the central panel, as Matachine dancers on the left, the chief of the Piro-Manso Tiwa on the right, and Apache dancers are in the sky, with Apache, Comanche and Piro-Manso people in the four corner cameos. There is a traditional adobe and branch house  and the Organ Mountains in the background. A wild river duck flies through the center symbolizing the natural world of the Pueblo people and a lone horseman representing the nomadic life of the Apache and Comanche is to the far left.

Panel 2: Pays tribute to the founders of the original town site of Las Cruces and the story of how it came about. The two men are Don Pablo Melendres, the mayor of Dona Ana, who commissioned Lt. Bennett Sackett to lay out 84 town blocks, of which is a symbolic plat that is between them and a stone house in the background. There is a wagon and farmers in the background that honors the early agricultural and river activities of the Mesquite.

Panel 3: Pays tribute to one of the most important structures of early Las Cruces,  St. Genevieve Catholic Church. The saint is symbolized in the clouds and the people in the foreground represent a marriage party which was only one of many activities that took place at the church. The four corner cameos show various aspects: Matachine dancers who combined their culture with the church; the Barrio family who gave the land the church was built on; the remodel of the towers, and the destruction of the church.

Panel 4: Pays tribute to the early small town friendship of the Mesquite and the western culture of ranch and farming people who were an everyday experience. Honor is also given to the children and the safety and warmth they knew. Also local business people such as butchers, bakers and shop keepers are symbolized by the man standing in the doorway. The four corner cameos show original houses still used today.

Panel 5: Pays tribute to Loretto Academy, another important institution and building that remain vivid in the memories of many older residents. Also honored are the kinds of socializing and businesses  that was common sight such as musicians and vegetable venders.  The corners show four scenes of the academy. 

Panel 6: Pays tribute to the ethnic and cultural diversity of Las Cruces, a western community that had a mixture of Hispanic, Euro Americans, Native Americans, African Americans, Jewish and many other ethnic origins. The four corner cameos show aspects of those cultures. Top left, is a Piro-Manso chief. Top right, shows Mescalero Apaches trading. Bottom right is a well-known Jewish family who owned a tailor shop. Bottom left, are Euro American ranchers.

Panel 7: Pays tribute to the idealic time of the 1950ís, when Las Cruces still had a vibrant and living downtown center, where shops were unique and family run and teenagers congregated. It also honors the hope parents had for their children and the good life of the American dream. The four corners show some of the most popular places remembered by old time residents. Officer Lauris  Gallegos, has been a contemporary neighborhood policeman and Las Esperanzas supporter, is portrayed representing trust.

Panel 8: Shows the urban renewal craze of the late sixties that left much of the center of town flattened. It is the hope of this panel that it will inspire the current Las Cruces community to value what is left of its history. The four women in the corner cameos are symbolic of being not only active members of Las Esperanzas, but represent the guardian angels of the future. They are: Bottom right, Consuelo Larma, founder; bottom left, Elizabeth Holguin Lannert, past president; top right, Estella Sanchez, a Piro-Manso Tiwa active member and neighborhood resident; top left, Vivian Enrique Wolfe who was instrumental in creating the infrastructure of Las Esperanzas.

 

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