Aug. 10--LAS CRUCES -- They honed their artistic and historical research skills and created an exhibit that shares a rich -- and in some cases personal -- New Mexican heritage. Seventh graders from the J. Paul Taylor Academy charter school spent many months researching pueblos throughout the state. They'll show off what they've learned in an impressive exhibit that will be on display through late October, on the second floor rotunda at DoÑa Ana County Government Center, 846 N. Motel Blvd.
"They seem to really know their pueblos. I've been checking them out," said J. Paul Taylor, the educator, legislator and arts aficionado for whom the academy is named, as he carefully examined each exhibit pillar and talked with students.
"They studied the tribes, they did watercolors to represent each pueblo and they did research papers. It was an exciting project," said Cynthia Risner, a founder and head administrator at the academy.
"We're very proud of them," said Bea Jenkins, a co-founder and volunteer at the school.
The students were guided by art teacher Stephanie Preciado and language arts instructor Mattie Kannard.
Students designed vertical cardboard columns "to complement the government center's upstairs rotunda," according to Jess Williams, county public information director.
"These kids were really focused. They did research at the Branigan Cultural Center's 'Las Cruces Crossroads of History' exhibit and used a lot of additional resources. The result is really good," said George Griffin, a volunteer at the BCC.
The students also visited Las Cruces Museum of Art to learn about exhibit design, curation and potential careers in museums.
Students said they discovered new information about indigenous arts, cultures and traditions and in some cases, learned more about their own heritage. Many were inspired to visit pueblos during family trips and summer vacations.
"Before, I didn't know some of the pueblos were known for their pottery. This was really fun," said Nathan Allred, 13, who studied the art and history of San Ildefonso Pueblo.
"I think it's neat, the way they've been able to pull together what they've learned," said Nathan's mom, Tanya Allred.
"I learned that you cannot use the Zia symbol without (Zia Pueblo's) permission, but many people do," said Lauren Hite, 13, who focused her studies on Zia Pueblo.
Some students enjoyed exploring their own roots in Pueblo Indian cultures.
"I had a lot of fun learning about my grandmother's stories," said Emily Garcia, 13, who painted a watercolor of Tesuque Pueblo symbols.
"I learned how much community is a part of the tribe and how they try to keep traditions alive and keep together. I studied Jemez Pueblo and I went there when I went to summer music camp. It was nice to see it," said Alma Kassim, 13.
"I studied Picaris Pueblo. I learned that each pueblo has their own story and it made me want to learn more," said Heber Parks, 13.
Tyler Selby, 13, carefully constructed a typical pueblo adobe building.
"I made it out of sticks and Styrofoam. It's covered with real clay. It's the style of house people would have made and still make," said Tyler, who studied Santa Clara Pueblo.
"I studied Acoma Sky City. And I went there. It's really awesome. I also did a three-page essay. Their agriculture in the sky city wasn't substantial enough to support the whole community, so only the tribal elders live there now. They have a feast day in November when all their members come to feast," said Pierce Olsen, 13.
Other students featured in the exhibit and the pueblos they studied include Elena Curnutt, Santo Domingo Pueblo, Brendon Duran, Cochiti Pueblo, Adam Eason, Laguna Pueblo, Jonathan Francis, Pojoaque Pueblo, Caitlin Frugoli, Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, Lea Garcia, Taos Pueblo, Spencer Griffiths, Isleta Pueblo, Jaedan Marquez, Navajo tribe, Patton McDowell, Nambe Pueblo, Sage Payne, Zuni Pueblo, Chriss Wright, San Felipe Pueblo, Easton Roundy, Sandia Pueblo, CJ Bonnaci, Santa Ana Pueblo, and Devin Schroeder and Alex Dyer, who collaborated on a Mescalero Apache tribe display.
While you're visiting the exhibit, check out other second floor art attractions, including a permanent collection of original paintings by Las Cruces artist Joyce T. Macrorie and more kid projects: two sculptures of life-size dresses made entirely of recycled materials by students of John E. Alvarez at Hatch Valley Middle School, and a horse constructed from newspapers and other reused materials by Tombaugh Elementary School students.
The ground floor also features an exhibit of artwork by K-12 students from Gadsden and Las Cruces public schools.
All the exhibits are accessible during regular county business hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at 575-541-5450.
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