Las Cruces’ Latest Arts Corridor
While Downtown Las Cruces has long been the city’s centerpiece arts corridor and home to the monthly First Friday Downtown Art Ramble, a collection of businesses and galleries along Lohman Avenue hope to add to the city’s ever-growing arts community through a partnership called Avenue L.
Written by Zak Hansen
On the third Friday of each month beginning September 15, a cluster of businesses centered around Arroyo Plaza—Big Picture Digital Image Experts and the Gallery at Big Picture, NMCO Media and MDC Computers, Picture Frame Factory Outlet and Gallery, and Wild Birds Unlimited—will host joint artists receptions and exciting new exhibits from some of the area’s best visual artists.
Avenue L has its birth in the bittersweet departure of Big Picture from the downtown area, the gallery and studio’s longtime home. The latest area revitalization project left Big Picture with dwindling foot traffic and without customer parking, and owner Jim Turrentine felt it was time to explore other locations.
“I love downtown and wish it well,” Jim says of the move. “Big Picture Digital Image Experts and the Gallery at Big Picture made Main Street Downtown our home since 2004. Since I am originally from Las Cruces, the idea of being downtown and a part of the revitalization effort was very appealing to me. Our business made it through the construction of Main Street but it was difficult for our customers and impacted the bottom line during that process.”
Soon, he found a new home along Lohman Avenue, in the bustling Arroyo Plaza, the stores and restaurants of which have already provided Big Picture a boost in walk-in art-lovers. Now, two months in the new location, Jim says the move already seems to have been a good choice.
Although departing his gallery’s longtime downtown home wasn’t easy, Jim views the move, as well as the establishment of this satellite arts district, as benefitting the city’s robust community of artists, often left wanting for venues to showcase their work. With an eye toward growing the arts community at home, Jim and his new neighbors will launch in September Las Cruces’ new monthly art event.
“The Gallery at Big Picture (aka Main Street Gallery) hosted approximately 144 art exhibits over the past 12 years,” Jim says. “I knew when we moved that I wanted to continue that tradition and include a gallery in our new space. I didn’t want to step on the toes of the Ramble or other established art events, and third Fridays didn’t seem to compete with other openings.”
Nearby NMCO Media creative agency, which offers photography, videography, web development, graphic design and more, as well as producing the popular website NewMexi.co, was a natural fit for the venture.
“NMCO media has always been very involved with the arts in Las Cruces,” notes NMCO’s Christina Ballew. “We expanded our offices in the Arroyo Plaza last year, and from the beginning thought it would be great if there was a sense of community in this area. Luckily, Jim from the Big Picture moved in next door! He has taken his experience and passion with the downtown Art Ramble and put Avenue L in motion.”
Jim, Christina, and Lucky Gonzales, also of NMCO Media, hope Avenue L will be a boon for the local arts community. “I hope that artists will feel like they have more options and opportunity to display their work,” Christina explains. “I really advocate for anybody that is trying to encourage art economy here, it’s challenging. But we need it and if we all work together we can give the community multiple experiences with Las Cruces artists.”
NMCO will feature several emerging artists, photographers and videographers, complementing the Big Picture’s established, professional fine artists and offering viewers a balance of styles and visions. During Avenue L’s September 15 debut, Emma Henderson will be featured, debuting “NMemonic,” her personal interpretation of the Organ Mountains and an expression of events in her life through vibrant landscape paintings.
NMCO will also debut its NewMexi.co boutique, stocked with locally made posters and products, including an artist line of T-shirts produced in partnership with Reviver Printing and featuring designs from artists including Cassandra Dixon, Rafael Torres, Santana Lopez and Deret Roberts, among others.
The established fine artists to be featured at Big Picture are Carmen Navar, whose work Jim displayed two years ago, as well as Laurie Churchill.