Carlsbad’s Halagueño Arts Park a home for visual, performance arts

If you go

Editor’s note: The last Sunday of each month, Journal Arts Editor Adrian Gomez tells the stories behind some of the hidden gems you can see across the state in “Gimme Five.”

Adrian Gomez.

Halagueño Arts Park is located at 101 S. Halagueño St. in Carlsbad. Located in the area is the Carlsbad Public Library.

On the grounds of Halagueño Arts Park in Carlsbad, there is a bevy of beauty.

Some are made of bronze. Others are vague enough to make one think.

Through it all, each piece of art resonates with visitors.

“Ball in the Window” by William Weaver.

Wren Prather-Stroud is the secretary of the New Mexico Arts Commission.

She’s also been around to see the arts park grow – not only in size – but in the amount of public art in the area.

“Cougar” by Cynthia Rowland.

“Because of the arts park, the area has grown exponentially,” Prather-Stroud says. “Before COVID, we used to have live performances down there and a movies in the park series. We haven’t had anything in awhile. There is a reason that we added the ‘s’ to arts park. We wanted it to be a home for visual arts and performance arts. The park has become a fabric of our lives.”

On the grounds there are more than 20 large and small scale pieces.

Glenna Goodacre’s “The Facts of Life.”

“It’s just an amazing place to visit,” Prather-Stroud says. “We’re still working on getting more pieces.”

The pandemic did slow some of the planning, but the most recent pieces were installed in 2019.

“Habanero” by Jim Eppler.

Prather-Stroud says each piece is a must-see, but she picked out five pieces that capture attention.

1. “Ball in the Window” by William Weaver was a gift to the people from Mayor Dale Janway’s Fine Art Acquisition and Vetting Committee.

Prather-Stroud says Weaver was the manager of Shidoni Foundry before its closure in 2017.

“The Reader” by Wren Prather-Stroud

“He’s a brilliant sculptor and we were lucky enough to get one of his pieces before COVID hit,” Prather-Stroud says. “In this piece, Bill had gotten some windows from an airplane. It’s from a sheet made of heavy Plexiglass and he made something out of the four corner pieces that are thrown away. It’s 10 feet high and seven feet wide. It’s a giant steel ball. It’s the most fun and it just makes you laugh. It faces the street, so visitors can see it right away even if they don’t stop at the park. It’s truly a wonderful piece of art.”

Prather-Stroud says Weaver has amazing depth of technical competency and a lightning-quick mind that can delve into all that knowledge he has stored up and come up with multiple creative resolutions to an artistic idea before anyone else has even finished thinking through what the idea is.

“His art makes people happy. What more could you ask?” she says.

2. Nearby, Cynthia Rowland’s “Cougar” watches over the park.

The bronze piece was also installed in 2019 as a gift to the people from Mayor Janway’s Fine Art Acquisition and Vetting Committee.

Rowland spent a dozen years in New York, and returned to New Mexico to pursue the medium of sculpture.

Prather-Stroud says the move developed into major public and private commissioned projects with Rowland’s partner and husband, Mark. The pair collaborated on the award-winning Senator Dennis Chavez Memorial at Civic Plaza and Lion’s Share at the Albuquerque International Airport.

“The cougar is up on a pedestal,” Prather-Stroud says. “When you walk by, it looks like it’s going to pounce on you. It’s a really nice piece to have in the collection.”

3. The park has pieces by big names such as Glenna Goodacre.

Prather-Stroud chose “The Facts of Life,” by the late sculptor to highlight.

“The Facts of Life” is a playful rendering of three children having a picnic and a chat, Prather-Stroud explains.

It was donated to the Carlsbad Museum and Art Center by the Feezer Fine Arts Acquisition Fund through the Carlsbad Foundation. Installed in 1996, it was cast at Art Castings foundry in Loveland, Colorado, and is No. 11 of an edition of 15.

” ‘The Facts of Life’ began as three girls sitting poolside,” Prather-Stroud says. “One of the girls became a boy after Goodacre overheard comments from observers who thought the middle kid was a boy. Goodacre had once said ‘I wanted them to just talk and gesture and I came up with the expression on the middle child’s face and it occurred to me how funny it would be if I named it “The Facts of Life.” If you think about it and look at them, those girls are really telling it to him and he’s just appalled at the whole idea.’ ”

Prather-Stroud says having multiple pieces by the New Mexican is an honor.

4. While there are massive pieces in the park, Prather-Stroud says visitors will have to search for Jim Eppler’s “Habanero.”

Eppler is known for his raven sculptures and “Habanero” has a chile pepper in his beak.

It was installed in 2014 and was a gift to the citizens of Carlsbad from Xcel Energy.

Eppler was born in 1950 and as a child growing up in El Paso, he spent much of his time outdoors, observing animals to sketch and paint.

Eppler did not start making sculptures until the 1990s and said that his experience as a painter made the transition easy for him.

While Eppler’s art encompasses a wide range of artistic genre and subject matter, animals and their habitats constantly draw him to their world. When researching particular species, Eppler moves quietly into the world of wildlife. He watches, listens, learns and captures on film the remarkable dimensions of wildlife and their habitats.

“It’s a little jewel,” Prather-Stroud says. “You might miss it when you walk into the park. Where it’s located, it looks like it belongs there. It’s like it’s his park. You can drive by and see the other pieces, but with the raven, you need to go into the park and look for it.”

5. “The Reader” by Prather-Stroud is one of the first pieces to be installed in the arts park.

It was commissioned by the Carlsbad Public Library Board and the Friends of the Carlsbad Public Library to commemorate the centennial of the library. The sculpture is pyramidal in shape and books form the base of the pyramid and a slightly over life-size (11/8 scale) figure is seated on the books. The head of the figure forms the apex of the pyramid, with the concept that the knowledge from the books ultimately resides in the mind of the reader. Installed in 1997, it was cast at Shidoni Foundry in Tesuque.

Prather-Stroud says the book titles were chosen by polling her friends and family for favorite titles from each section of the library (fiction, non-fiction, children’s, etc.) A large volume of Shakespeare forms the “cornerstone” of the pyramid. The typeface for each volume was carefully rendered to reflect the spines of published volumes of the books. The shape of the book stack was created to form a pleasing abstract pattern and to leave space for the feet of the figure to rest. The figure holds an open book with a quote from Emerson on the pages.

” ‘The Reader’ has been a surprising thing for me,” Prather-Stroud says. “The longer pieces stay in one place, more people become attached to it. I get letters from people telling me how ‘The Reader’ has influenced their life. I never imagined this piece of art would mean so much to so many. It’s humbling for me still.”

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