All For the Love of Art

Exploring Las Cruces’ art world


Once a year, Las Cruces artists come together and flow apart to show their love of their craft by celebrating for a whole month, For the Love of Art Month. February became a month of activity and studio tours about 25 years ago, ArtForms president Karen Conley said.

“The original ArtForms people started by picking a month and celebrating art all across the city with open studio tours and more,” she said. “At the beginning there were events like flamenco dancers. Covid squeezed the life out of a lot of groups and now we are back in full. I think we have 39 studio tours and it’s pretty spread out across the city.”

Today there are new artists and those who have done it before, she said. The ArtForms Member’s show kicks off the event every year. This year it begins in two galleries in the Mesquite Historic District, Gallery 925 and Duende Gallery, with the exhibition opening reception 4 - 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 2. There will be live music by Blues 101 and refreshments.

There is a comprehensive guide of month-long events and studio tour guide available which can be picked up at locations across the county.

“We highlight a lot of other art events,” Conley said. “We will be adding all the events we can to our webpage. This is a celebration – an organized month-long event highlighting our local artists that live and work here.”

Conley, an artist herself, said art brings a lot to each person’s life.

“Art is enrichment,” she said. “I believe art is another language that can help people in their life. It helps us understand things that are going on in the world.”

Having been a special education teacher with autistic students Conley knows first-hand art can be a key to communication.

When she was a child, her aunt was a regional artist and her grandmother always had pencils and paper. She said she learned to appreciate nature and beauty and the fine things and those rubbed off on her. After retiring from the Army, Conley felt compelled to go to art school. She went to New Mexico State University and started painting.

“The education did open up my world,” she said. “It really helped me a lot. I felt drawn to create after 28 years in a left brained environment.

This year instead of choosing an artist of the year ArtForms determined to remember some of the beloved area artists who have passed away in the past year. These include Ruth Drayer, Les Fairchild, Linda Lundeen, John Northcutt and Jan Thune.

“We just thought it would be better to recognize the people that we lost,” Conley said. “There is a page in the brochure and plaque for the show.”

The mission of ArtForms is to support the Las Cruces creative community and partner with other organizations to promote the region as an arts and cultural destination, the organization said in a press release.

“For the Love of Art Month is a vital community celebration of the arts,” said Rebecca Courtney, a longtime member and participating artist. “Artists, galleries, local businesses, schools and citizens of all ages come together in February to embrace the power of creativity. Art provides income to families, attracts tourists, builds community pride and establishes our identity as a community.  This annual endeavor is truly for the love of art and for the pride we have in the Mesilla Valley.”

There are 39 studio tours scheduled this year. The tour lets patrons talk to the artists and see their creative spaces. Some of the artists will be working or doing demos. The studio listing, QR code, and specific dates for each are listed in the Artforms’ guide and on the Web page: The QR code links to an interactive GOOGLE map with all 39 locations and directions. Each studio location will have a blue flag placed out front to make it easier to find.

"This year, the studio tour is spread out across the valley. The organization is healthy, with 90 members and much support from the community," Conley said. “We know how important these events are and our members are passionate about making it happen."

Also opening on Feb. 2 and running through Feb. 29 is an exhibit by the Southern Chapter of the New Mexico Watercolor Society at the Frame and Art Center at 1100 S. Main Street. Dennis Lujan will be kicking off his eighth annual EROTICA Show from 6 to 10 p.m., Friday, Feb. 9 at 3390 Apple Cross Place. The show will also run 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 10 and 11. The New Mexico State University Art Museum offers a tour of the current exhibits and a behind-the-scenes peak into the museum's collection at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10. Email to register for the tour. Other events are listed in the Event Guide and on the organization's Web page. 

For more information, visit, email or call Karen Conley at 314-704-9445. 

Art, Las Cruces Artists, Artforms, Love of Art Month