LAS CRUCES – Our giant roadrunner is settling in on a new perch and should be ready to greet fans by the end of the month, according to Olin Calk, the creature’s creator.
The roadrunner recently left Calk’s Mesilla backyard, where it’s been hanging out since extensive renovations were completed, and headed back to its long-term home at the Interstate 10 rest stop west of Las Cruces.
“After moving the foundation for a new base for the roadrunner … we’ll be finishing the installation over the next two weeks,” Calk said the week before last.
The 20-foot-tall, 40-foot-long artwork will be positioned on the new base, which Calk has designed to resemble a large rock – and to discourage climbing and vandalism which has plagued the big bird in the past.
In its latest incarnation, the iconic bird, which has become a symbol of Las Cruces and eco-conscious living, features the multimedia recycled elements that have attracted generations of admirers. The roadrunner sports eyes made from Volkswagen headlights, and is feathered with everything from used sneakers to cast-off plastic toys, a golf club and a bowling trophy, along with metal from the city’s recycling center and unwanted items donated by area thrift stores to fortify the bird.
Joy Miller, exhibits curator at the Las Cruces Museum of Art, thinks it’s a “perfect” symbol for our region.
“First of all, it’s great to be using state bird and secondly, it’s wonderful to see the reused materials as the media for a monumental-size work. I sure hope local people will take time to go see it and check out its new incarnation. It’s innovative and I love it,” Miller said.
It was first created by Calk and Dan Smith in 1993 as part of a recycling education program for area school kids. The mega bird spent its first decade at what was then a city landfill on the East Mesa. After a refurbishing stop at Calk’s farm, it went to the West Mesa rest stop where it remained until it headed back to Calk’s farm for a thorough makeover in 2012.
Excepted for a brief 2012 Earth Day appearance at Young Park, it remained there for the past two years while debates continued about the best location for the bird.
Finally, the city, which officially owns the artwork, reached an agreement with the state and federal highway administration to place the bird back on the West Mesa site where it has a great view of the Organ Mountains, and travelers approaching from the west toward Las Cruces have a welcoming view of the icon.
“I don’t know if it will happen, but I’d like to have an unveiling or a ribbon cutting or something around the end of the month,” Calk said. “And I think it would be a great place for people to go on the Fourth of July to get a long-distance view of fireworks, all around the city.”