From City Council to Arts Council: Greg Smith talks about art’s broader impact on community


Transitioning from an elected office to running a nonprofit within a couple of months at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 was a “big shifting of gears” for Greg Smith.

But moving from the Las Cruces City Council to the Doña Ana Arts Council (DAAC), “connects in with a lot of what I think is important with Las Cruces and Doña Ana County going forward,” Smith said in a recent interview.

“I’m really happy to be here doing this,” Smith said. “The arts is very much a part of what I was trying to do politically.”

In addition to serving as DAAC executive director, he is also chair of the city’s Arts and Cultural District (ACD) Coordinating Council, which was created in 2015 to help develop arts and culture assets in downtown Las Cruces.

It was a busy and challenging first year at DAAC for Smith, as he helped guide the arts council through Covid-19 and its move to a new home at 250 W. Amador Ave. The move returned DAAC to the ACD, across the street from the historic Amador Hotel and adjacent to the site of the home built by Martín Amador (1836-1903), patriarch of one of Las Cruces’ earliest and most influential families.

“It all connects,” Smith said.

And the new location “is working for us in so many ways,” he said.

Like many other nonprofits, DAAC hosted online exhibitions, workshops and fundraisers online throughout 2020, and is looking forward to a return to live, face-to-face events as it celebrates its 50th anniversary of and the 50th anniversary of its signature event, the Renaissance ArtsFaire, in 2021.

DAAC also has a full lineup of in-person youth art camps this summer and other events are in the works.

Reflecting local history and their connections to space, engineering and agriculture, the arts present “a bright opportunity to have Las Cruces and Doña Ana County shine,” Smith said, and “take pride in who we are and what we are.”

The arts, he said, also offer great educational and economic development opportunities, he said, and can help keep local youth living and working “where they grew up.”

The arts are also “part of a larger community,” Smith said. They won’t necessarily bring a grocery store to a food desert, he said, but they are “part of the environment for those things to happen.”

With nearly $2 million in capital outlay funding, ACD has plans for wayfinding, lighting and unique transportation in the downtown area, Smith said. And the coordinating council wants to help with the development of performance venues, galleries and artists’ lofts that will attract artists and visitors to downtown and its neighboring Mesquite and Alameda Depot historic districts.

The challenge for DAAC and ACD, Smith said, is “How do we make ourselves both viable and integral to what’s happening in Las Cruces and Doña Ana County going forward?”

Arts Council has full slate of summer camps on tap; registration deadlines approaching

The Doña Ana Arts Council (DAAC) is currently planning in-person summer camps that will follow state Covid guidelines, DAAC said in a news release. The camps will include Career Art Path, Missoula Children’s Theatre and Opera Storytellers Camp. 

  • Career Art Path will be held 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. weekdays, Monday, June 14- Friday, June 25, and is a visual arts camp for 30 fifth- to eighth-graders. During this two-week experience, participants will explore art-related careers through hands-on activities and speakers. Lisa Carlson, a Kennedy Center-trained art teacher who had a long and distinguished career as an art teacher with Las Cruces Public Schools, and Hiba Mohammed, who is an LCPS art teacher, will co-coordinate the program. Tuition is $100 per student. The registration deadline is Monday, May 24.
  • Missoula Children’s Theatre will be held 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday, July 6-10. This year, a cast of 60 student actors will perform “Sleeping Beauty.” Tuition is $60 per student with a discount for children in the same immediate family. Students must pre-register by Tuesday, June 15. Pending possible changes in state public health orders, the cast is expected to be comprised of 16 students entering first grade to age seven, and 44 students ages 8-18.
  • Opera Storytellers Camp will be held Monday, July 19-Friday, July 30. It will be directed by Christa Fredrickson, who is director of choral activities at Centennial High School and an adjunct instructor in the New Mexico State University Theatre Arts Department. Earlier this year, she co-directed the Theatre Department’s Destination Broadway production. The camp is open to students in grades three-12. Participants will compose and perform their own 30-minute musical drama based on the hero’s journey and will learn the technical aspects of lighting and sound, as well as set and costume design. No experience is required for the camp. Tuition is $300. The registration deadline is Tuesday, June 15.

Partial scholarships based on financial need are available for all programs.

Apply online at

  Call DAAC at 575-523-6403. Visit the Dona Ana Arts & Cultural Center and office at 250 W. Amador Ave.