Las Cruces Mural Builds Community and Hope
In our interview with Raquel Madrigal, artist for the 100% Community Mural in Las Cruces, we discuss what the new mural means to her, the community of Las Cruces, and Doña Ana County.
Question: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Raquel Madrigal: I am a Native New Mexican that is passionate about art and community. I work as a graphic designer and traditional artist and have a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts from New Mexico State University. My practice is based in queer theory and familial relationships. I love people and come from a big family with nine brothers and sisters. My free time is spent with close friends over a nice cup of tea or beer, open mics in Las Cruces, and writing poetry.
Question: How did this mural get started?
Raquel Madrigal: I got started on this mural when a friend referred me because of my previous Mural called By the Dam on the Cruces Creatives Building (Amador Ave and Church Street). Sylvia Chavez and Kassandra Gandara of Doña Ana County Resilience Leaders contacted me in July and talked to me about the project. I jumped at the opportunity because I’m passionate about art and being active in my community and I saw this as the perfect project that encompassed my values. Resilience Leaders collected surveys from the surrounding community and parents associated with Booker T. Washington Elementary School that had a common theme of family, community, and education, along with an importance of culture. I used these surveys and ideas to create three designs. Most people gravitated to the Family Roots idea and I personally liked this design the most. I was very excited to put this story on a wall and be seen by everyone.
Question: The design is distinctive, incorporating so many elements. Why did you and the community choose to incorporate them?
Raquel Madrigal: Looking for repeating ideas and themes made it possible to prioritize what the community wanted to see on the mural. Through surveys and community conversations, prominent ideas were chosen and my part as the artist was to consolidate it into a cohesive design. I was not able to put everything in it, but I feel like I was able to construct a common theme, balancing my artistic voice and the community’s. I am very thankful for the help of Kassandra Gandara and Sylvia Chavez for being part of the process because they did an excellent job in reaching out to people and telling me what they wanted to see. Kassandra was particularly helpful because of her strong ties to the community and her passion to make it a better place.
Question: What is your favorite part of this mural?
Raquel Madrigal: My favorite part of the mural is the family that is in the center. This part of the mural is so important because it shows that support systems are the biggest part of our success. I enjoyed drawing this family, their body language and facial expressions are gentle and nurturing. It highlights a single mother and her parents raising a child in this part of the mural. It is to show that a supportive family may not look the same for every child. The child in the middle is showing to be reading and then she grows to become the graduate.
Question: How do you think the 100% mural project helps build community?
Raquel Madrigal: The 100% Mural project helps build community because it brings color to the community that it’s serving. A mural turns bricks into stories and makes a place special. It is also free and accessible art so people who don’t usually have the time or ability to visit a gallery or museum can still enjoy it. I felt like there was a lot of appreciation from the community when I was painting this mural. Everyday people would stop by and ask me about it. They were intrigued and grateful that there was going to be public art in their neighborhood. I feel like that’s one step in making the community better, to acknowledge and appreciate it.
Question: Are there any other details about the mural you’d like to share?
Raquel Madrigal: In this mural I wanted to highlight a family system with a single mother that relies on her parents to help raise her child. I feel like this narrative brings to light that different family structures are still fruitful. I hope that a child who sees this mural and has a similar circumstance sees themselves as the end of the mural as the graduate.
For those seeking to join our bold transformation, you can find your county’s 100% New Mexico initiative on our map. Join an existing county initiative or start one. You may also review our latest research brief, evaluating our work. For those wanting a more in-depth look into the initiative, you are welcome to enroll in our free self-guided course A Child’s Right to Survive and Thrive. We welcome those courageous New Mexicans who believe that every child should have access to the services for surviving and thriving.