Dave Contarino on Arts & Culture in Las Cruces


Dave Contarino is a political consultant based in Louisville, Kentucky. Contarino currently serves as president of Contarino & Associates LLC. He has more than 25 years of experience working with political campaigns, candidates and government officials. Once known as the “man behind the governor,” Dave Contarino is a former Chief of Staff to Governor Bill Richardson and has helped several other Governors get elected to office. In 2012, he led multiple campaign committees and guided the successful campaign for Congresswoman Michelle Grisham, helping her defeat two higher profile opponents after starting last in the race.

Dave Contarino

According to Dave Contarino, the arts community in Las Cruces, New Mexico, is held in high esteem by area residents. Dave Contarino appreciates the opportunity to explore the downtown area, which contains three theaters and 10 art galleries. Below, Dave Contarino explains the renaissance of the downtown area.

ZRYLW: What makes Las Cruces so special for locals and artists alike?

Dave Contarino: One of the greatest aspects of artistic and cultural growth in the city is the revitalized downtown area. There has been an active effort to restore Main Street and encourage residents to enjoy activities in what many consider to be the heart of the community.

ZRYLW: Where are these art galleries located?

Dave Contarino: Along with the downtown area, the New Mexico State University campus and its nearby neighborhood feature a host of galleries.

ZRYLW: Why is art such a significant element in this area’s rich tapestry?

Dave Contarino: The community art scene owes much to the presence of New Mexico State University with its highly regarded music, art and theater programs.

ZRYLW: Does the location of Las Cruces have an impact?

Dave Contarino: The cultural roots of Las Cruces go deep, resting upon the traditions of early Spanish settlers and the Native Americans.

ZRYLW: What organizations foster this love of art in the community?

Dave Contarino: More than 30 organizations in Las Cruces are focused on culture and the arts.

ZRYLW: Is theater popular in the area?

Dave Contarino: The city currently holds five theater companies, the Las Cruces Chamber Ballet, the Mesilla Valley Concert Band, the Las Cruces Symphony, and several other dance and music groups.

ZRYLW: Are there events for film and book lovers?

Dave Contarino: Absolutely. The Mesilla Valley Film Society presents independent and foreign films at Fountain Theatre. Meanwhile, the annual Border Book Festival is popular with local bibliophiles. And to mention a favorite book store of mine, COAS My Bookstore.

ZRYLW: What forms of art are most often practiced?

Dave Contarino: There are several artist guilds that specialize in everything from weaving and watercolors to ceramics and clay.

ZRYLW: What are the major features of the Las Cruces museum system?

Dave Contarino: The Las Cruces museum system includes the Las Cruces Museum of Fine Art, Museum of Natural History, Branigan Cultural Center, and the Railroad Museum.

ZRYLW: How does Las Cruces honor its agricultural background?

Dave Contarino: This culture and the attendant traditions are widely exhibited at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum.

ZRYLW: Doesn’t New Mexico State University also have a museum?

Dave Contarino: Yes, the New Mexico State University Museum displays items from the university’s permanent collection on a rotating basis.

ZRYLW: What’s a favorite cultural venue for you?

Dave Contarino:  Space Murals Inc. includes a water tank mural as well as space memorabilia. It’s a visually stunning experience.

ZRYLW: One last attraction: the Rio Grande Theatre.

Dave Contarino: First opened in 1926 as a classic movie house, it has since been redefined as a popular education and performing arts center directed by the Doña Ana Arts Council.

ZRYLW: Thanks for meeting with us!

Dave Contarino: You’re welcome. I enjoyed it.

A Kentucky resident, Dave Contarino is a political adviser and strategist who regularly visits the Las Cruces area.

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