Virtual tour features crèches from around the world

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“The Art of the Crèche” is a virtual sharing of some of the crèches, or nacimientos, in the private collection of Faith Hutson and John Verploegh of Las Cruces.

The Zoom presentation will be given at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 24, and 6 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 31.

The presentation is part of the celebration of 2021 as The Year of the Artist, Hudson said, as suggested by the Doña Ana Arts Council and proclaimed by local governments.

It will include photos and a discussion of 30 crèches from the collection, Hudson said, including crèches from the United States, Spain, Italy, Kurdistan, Kyrgyzstan, Israel, India, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Ethiopia, Tanzania, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

A crèche (pronounced kresh; rhymes with fresh) is a model of the birthplace of Christ, i.e., the manger, from an 18th-century French word meaning crib. Nacimiento is Spanish for birth or nativity scene.

Hudson said she began collecting in the mid-1980s when she visited a nativity exhibit at New Mexico State University’s Kent Hall Museum and bought a crèche made from straw, which likely came from the Michoacán area of western Mexico.

Since then, Hudson, Verploegh and family members have collected crèches from around the world during their international travels. Both their fathers made crèches that are part of the collection, and the couple even fashioned a crèche from Hudson’s treasured childhood dollhouse, using wrestling figures dressed as Joseph, the shepherds and the kings.

The collection now includes more than 120 crèches from 12 geographical regions of the world and 39 countries.

Hudson has had a lifelong interest in crèches, she said, recalling that setting up the nativity scene was her favorite Christmas activity as a child. That first family crèche she remembers likely came from the 1967 Nuremberg Christmas Market.

The Hudson-Verploegh collection grew by nearly a third last summer when Hudson was gifted with about 30 crèches from a longtime family friend, Cheryl Stock, who died in 2009. Hudson said Stock’s husband had stored away the crèches, also collected during world travels, at his Seattle home. He offered them to Hudson.

“We just feel very honored and very grateful to have been given her collection,” Hudson said.

Several of Stock’s pieces will be included in Hudson’s January presentation.

Hudson also recently purchased on e-Bay a crèche from Malawi that includes native animals, she said, with proceeds benefiting Friends of the Creche, a U.S. member of the international association of crèche societies. Hudson said she is looking forward to buying a crèche made from a discarded plastic snack bag by a woman who runs a shop in Honduras.

Hudson said more than 90 percent of the crèches in the Hudson-Verploegh collection are on display year-round in their Mesquite District home. Last year, Hudson and Verploegh opened their home to showcase the crèches. That wasn’t possible this year because of the pandemic, so the couple created the virtual presentation.

Hudson’s Zoom presentation “will discuss the recreation of the story of the birth of Christ through the creative eyes of artists,” she said. “The collection reflects people’s work from around the world who interpret the Christmas story in terms of their own cultural environment, as evidenced by the artist’s use of materials, costume, animals and gifts from the Magi.”

You don’t have to be religious to appreciate the artistic beauty of the pieces or their cultural significance, Hudson said, and the celebration of birth is universal.

Hudson and Verploegh hope sharing the crèches virtually will provide people with some relief from the pandemic. Personally, she said, seeing the crèches displayed throughout her house is a constant reminder to “reflect on faith and gratitude (and that) there are still miracles in this world.”

Hudson and Verploegh plan another virtual presentation in a few months that will feature more of their collection. And, they hope to host a crèche tour in January 2022 in connection with Epiphany.

Email lcgarden64@gmail.com to receive the Zoom meeting ID.

There is no charge to participate. Donations to the Mesquite District Art Fund are welcome. The fund supports public art in the south Mesquite Historic District. To donate, visit www.paypal.com/donate?hosted_button_id=7M4WDT25VNEX.