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City of Las Cruces' new program coordinator plans to expand public art

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Las Cruces Bulletin

LAS CRUCES - Lorenzo Zepeda is the City of Las Cruces’ first-ever art program coordinator.

Zepeda began his new job April 1, moving over from the city Parks and Recreation Department.

His principal task, Zepeda said, will be to work with the city Art Board, the Las Cruces Arts and Culture District Coordinating Council and local art groups to start a local public art program. That will mean more visible public art downtown and throughout Las Cruces.

“Our reach is the whole city,” Zepeda said in a May 17 interview.

And because he’s in communication with officials in cities like El Paso and Albuquerque about their long- standing public art programs, “We don’t have to reinvent any wheels,” Zepeda said. At the same time, Las Cruces is “not Santa Fe or Albuquerque. We’re our own thing.”

Therefore, he said, the city’s public art should reflect the community’s love for color, its rich multicultural history and its agricultural and indigenous roots. It should also reflect, he said, Las Cruces as a true crossroads (its name may actually mean “the crossings”).

His first duty, Zepeda said, will be to create a budget for the city art program, using capital improvement program money from the city’s general fund, and then create visual and performing arts programs, call for entries from local, regional and even national artists and use a jury process to select public art for display or performance.

His office will also seek public input as it drafts a master plan for public art.

Lorenzo Zepeda, “Hummingbird on the Left,” oil on panel. (Photo courtesy of Lorenzo Zepeda/City of Las Cruces) Lorenzo Zepeda, “Hummingbird on the Left,” oil on panel. (Photo courtesy of Lorenzo Zepeda/City of Las Cruces)

“We want to create an experience for people,” Zepeda said. “That’s what quality of life is all about.”

The city had 78 applicants for an art display going up soon at city hall, Zepeda said, with the three finalists to be revealed in June and a final proposal submitted to the city council for approval in August.

Zepeda was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Anthony, Texas. He graduated from Cathedral High School in El Paso, earned a BFA from New Mexico State University and is a long-time local artist. He began working for the City of Las Cruces in 2006, leaving once to start the art program at Chaparral High School in the Gadsden Independent School District and a second time to create the art curriculum and teach at Anthony Charter School. Zepeda was on the board of the West End Art Depot in Las Cruces for four years. He also is a tai chi instructor.

Since its creation in 2013, the city Art Board has been working toward creating a city art coordinator position.

Contact Zepeda at 575-541-2137, lzepeda@las-cruces.org, or visit las-cruces.org/1877/Public-Art for more information.

Mike Cook may be contacted at mike@lascrucesbulletin.com.

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