They say home is where the heart is, but what of those who have no homes?
This is a question encountered every day at Mesilla Valley Community of Hope, 999 W. Amador Ave, and its tent city annex, Camp Hope. It’s also an ever-present specter in the minds of caring individuals within the community at large, which is why this year, the Border Artists and Soledad Canyon Earth Builders are teaming up to create a unique art event addressing this very issue, called The Art of Giving.
And what better way to call attention to the plight of the homeless than to create a benefit event within the framework of the annual Las Cruces Home Builders Association Spring Showcase of Homes? For those unfamiliar with the event, which is now in its 41st year, the Showcase provides an opportunity for home builders in the Mesilla Valley to throw open the doors on freshly built homes in a massive two-weekend long open house that regularly brings in thousands of visitors.
For Pat Bellestri-Martinez, owner of Soledad Canyon Earth Builders and chair of this year’s LCHBA Spring Showcase of Homes – which takes place April 25-27 and May 2-4 – the concept of combining the Showcase with an art show fundraiser to benefit the homeless all started with a conversation.
“I was talking to photographer David Shaw,” she said “He started a project about nine months ago where he’s photographing people living in tents at Camp Hope, then again when they are transitioning into their new permanent homes. I thought that was fascinating.”
One thing led to another and soon Bellestri-Martinez was cooking up an idea. According to her, a year before last, the Border Artists had been invited to hang their art in Soledad Canyon’s showcase house. It was such a success, she was interested in doing it again. This time, however, since Shaw is a member of the group, she thought about making his work a focus of the show. She talked to the Border Artists and they agreed.
“It just came together after that,” she said. “It’s going to take everything we have to pull it off, but I’m excited. David’s work is so compelling. He will have 100 photographs displayed in our garage gallery. What he has captured in those photos is a story of the strength of the human spirit. He brings a close up view of life at Camp Hope, in every weather condition. It’s a view Las Crucans usually only see as they drive by on Amador or Valley Drive.”
For his part, Shaw calls the experience of putting his 30-plus years background as a photographer to work on this universal issue a humbling experience.
“I realized almost immediately that any of us could end up there,” he said. “I’m touched by how ordinary a lot of these people are. One man, who still lives there, has a Ph.D from Stanford. The number of homeless veterans is staggering. One out of every four veterans in the United States is homeless. It’s an eye-opening experience. Having driven down Valley so many times, seeing the tents off in the distance and wondering what goes on there and who these people are – I’m sure many people wonder the same thing. People need to know. This little event is the first of its kind, but it won’t be the last.”
This collaboration is just one of many that have been coming together to draw attention to the homeless problem and devise ways to raise much needed funding to keep programs like Camp Hope alive. Again, for those unfamiliar with it, Camp Hope is an “alternative transitional living project” for the homeless, in the form of a city sanctioned camp site located on the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope campus. For Shaw, using his skills to aid in the pursuit has become one of the more rewarding experiences of his life. It’s no wonder then, he points out, that its scope has grown beyond the Mesilla Valley.
“Camp Hope is there to help people move through the transition from one stage to another in their lives,” he said. “It’s helping them get their ducks in a row and is being looked at by people all over the United States and the world. In fact, people from Denmark recently came to study Camp Hope to see how it works. Everybody is looking for ways to help the homeless and some of the best work on the subject is being done right here in the valley. Events like this just help to spread the word further.”
Opening its doors from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, April 25, the newly finished rammed earth home located at 4396 Isleta Court will serve as a Showcase gallery for the event, featuring the works of several Border Artists, on display and available for purchase throughout the house. Sharing the spotlight with Shaw are such local luminaries as Carolyn Bunch, Sherry Doil-Carter, Rosemary McLaughlin, Winfrey Hearst, Amanda Jaffe, Cassandra Lockwood, Jo Rango, Jeanne Rundell, Jo-an Smith, Scott Weaver and Jean Reece Wilkey exhibiting in a variety of mediums, including acrylics, etchings, abstracts, landscapes, pottery, photography and portraits.
Live music and refreshments will also be featured on opening night. The artwork will be available throughout both weekends of the Showcase of Homes and a portion of all proceeds will benefit Camp Hope.
The Art of Giving
5 to 8 p.m. Friday, April 25
4396 Isleta Court