Written by ZAK HANSEN
One of the longest-running artists cooperatives in New Mexico will celebrate its silver anniversary in 2019, as the Mesilla Valley Fine Arts Gallery turns 25.
The gallery and its member artists will celebrate this milestone with an open house from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 16, during For the Love of Art Month, Las Cruces’ annual 28-day celebration of all things art. Snacks and refreshments will be served, and several of the gallery’s artists will be on hand to meet and discuss their work and their years as part of the longstanding cooperative.
The gallery’s genesis dates back to the early 1990s, when a group of 20-some local artists held a series of juried exhibitions in the Mesilla Valley Mall.
Following several successful shows, the mall’s then-manager offered the group a space for a reduced rate, first near JCPenney on the south end, and later on the northern end of the mall across from what was then Luby’s, in the space now occupied by Barnes & Noble.
The collection of local and regional artists decided in to incorporate, as Mesilla Valley Fine Arts Inc., in October 1994 — the date chosen by the board of directors as group’s official founding.
Th gallery left its space at Mesilla Valley Mall in 2003, making its way first to 1800 Avenida de Mesilla, next to what is now Salud! de Mesilla restaurant; that lease expired and, in search of more foot traffic, the gallery moved again in 2005 to its current location, at 2470-A Calle de Guadalupe.
Founding or very early artists were included acrylic painters Annette Hoover and Gladys Lungsferd; oil painters Earline Barnes, Nobuco Bassett, Carolyn Bunch, Rayma Claessen, Carl Cogar, Ruth Drayer, Candy Meyer, Corinne Spinler, Ruth Tobkin and Bob Willis; watercolorists Glenda Bucci, Bert Gammill, Tom Gerand and Dorothy Tuma; photographers Dick Hubbard, Frank Parrish and Morris Southward.
Some of those early artists are still with Mesilla Valley Fine Arts Gallery today. Roxanna Quinnell and Yvonne Postelle were juried in within the first 6 months or so and, as of August 2018, Gammill, Quinnell and Postelle are still with the gallery; Claessen retired in December 2017.
From the beginning, Mesilla Valley Fine Arts Gallery has operated on a core set of principles and requirements. Member artists pays monthly dues, and “sit” in the gallery for two three-and- a-half hour sessions per month, attend regular meetings and assist the gallery in other ways.
A percentage of sales goes to the gallery for the space and maintenance, and once a year, members receive a check.
It’s these cooperative principles that have guided Mesilla Valley Fine Arts Gallery through its 25 years, as well as a testament to the talent and dedication of its artists.
Today, the gallery has 30 members, along with an executive committee elected annually by members, and a board of directors made up of that committee, plus the chairs of the cooperative’s several standing committees and individuals in charge of various assistances and tasks.
The gallery strives, as it always has, to maintain a broad array of diverse, high-quality fine art. Current offerings are in oil, acrylic and watercolor paintings, pastel, ink and pencil drawings, photographs, mixed-media, fiber art, gourd art, tile mosaics, ceramics, woodturning, jewelry, fused and leaded stained glass, basketry and more.
Mesilla Valley Fine Arts Gallery also keeps its art both accessible and affordable; in its 700 square feet one finds arts for all tastes and all budgets. From small prints, cards and watercolors up through more expensive pieces, there’s truly something for everyone.
With work on a three-month rotation, Mesilla Valley Fine Arts Gallery is, four times a year, like a whole new gallery; work takes on new life as it moves from wall to wall, juxtaposed each time with pieces from other artists in other styles.
Located across the street from La Posta de Mesilla and the Fountain Theatre and next door to Vintage Wines, just off Mesilla’s iconic plaza, Mesilla Valley Fine Arts Gallery is a the perfect lace to start a pleasant afternoon on the plaza. Fine art, independent film, classic New Mexican food and a few glasses of wine make it an entertainment destination in a single block.
Mesilla Valley Fine Arts Gallery is open 363 days a year, closed only on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Regular gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.