LAS CRUCES – A mural created in conjunction with the launch of the city’s neighborhood anti-poverty initiative was formally unveiled at an event Friday afternoon at the corner of North Solano Drive and East Mulberry Avenue.
The mural, sponsored by the Doña Ana County Resilience Leaders, was painted by local artist Raquel Madrigal on the side of Cravings Catering with some help from other community members. The wall-sized image depicts a woman growing up with a single mother, getting educated and reaching her full potential due to the support of her family, neighbors and community and reads “100% Community.” It’s thematically connected to Lift Up Las Cruces, the anti-poverty effort which launched in the surrounding neighborhood last month.
“Getting an education is what propelled my life forward,” Madrigal, who attended New Mexico State University, told attendees. “It’s what made me see that I wanted to be an artist. I wanted to do big murals or be a graphic designer or make videos … My life would never be the same if I didn’t go and get (an) education .”
“This has been really a labor of love for us,” said District 1 City Councilor Kasandra Gandara. Part of the Lift Up Las Cruces program boundaries are in her district. Gandara said Madrigal “really incorporated her life experience” into the piece.
Madrigal said when she was viewing community survey answers as she considered ideas for the mural, she saw neighbors mentioned family, community, roots, culture and food as some of their most important shared values. Feedback came from a questionnaire disseminated to the Tree Streets neighborhood.
Those themes are visible in the completed mural, from red chiles, tree branches and roots to a graduation cap.
“I need to make this into a narrative,” Madrigal thought to herself. “I was hoping that if a kid that’s struggling, maybe their mom or dad just left (or) maybe they were never there, and maybe they see this mural and they see at the end that they also can have that fruitful life.”
DAC Resilience Leaders is a group focused on addressing and preventing adverse childhood experiences, family trauma and social adversity. It was formed by Gandara in 2017 in response to local community events about childhood trauma and the book “Anna, Age Eight: The data-driven prevention of childhood trauma and maltreatment.”
Rose Ann Vasquez is a coordinator for the local behavioral health collaborative LC3 and a sector leader in behavioral health with DAC Resilience Leaders. Vasquez said her children grew up in the area served by Lift Up Las Cruces.
“It really comes down to bringing the community together,” Vasquez said about the mural project.
Madrigal told the Sun-News that a mural is perhaps the most appropriate artwork to accompany Lift Up Las Cruces because murals are accessible to everyone.
“It’s just anywhere you put it,” Madrigal said. “It can be on the most jagged walls, the most smooth walls, and because of that it breaks down the economics of art because it’s free and available for everybody. There isn’t a whole lot of art pieces where you don’t have to pay to see it.”
Michael McDevitt is a city and county government reporter for the Sun News. He can be reached at 575-202-3205, [email protected] or @MikeMcDTweets on Twitter.