Prospectus #195 Eastern New Mexico University Ruidoso Branch Community College

Commission Project Chispa by Tom Latka

Budget: $54,300

ENMU-Ruidoso is a comprehensive two-year college offering Certificates of Completion, Associate of Science, Associate of Arts, and Associate of Applied Science degrees. Established in 1991, the Ruidoso Off-Campus Instruction Center offered Lincoln County residents access to two-year college academic and career/technical curriculum. In July 2005 the Ruidoso Campus was legislatively created as a Branch of ENMU becoming the 18th two-year college in New Mexico. The college is located in the heart of the multicultural “playground of the Southwest,” an area that has long been a favorite recreation and cultural destination in New Mexico’s spectacular Sacramento Mountains.

The overarching mission of ENMU-Ruidoso is to enhance the lives of students and the community while emphasizing liberal education, freedom of inquiry, cultural diversity and student life. The committee would like the artwork to embody the distinct characteristics of an educational experience in a remote region of the state with a diverse cultural and ethnic population. The artwork should increase visibility of the college from Mechem Drive and the committee hopes for the artwork to make the campus more accessible to pedestrians and motorists using this main thoroughfare.

Tom Latka from Pueblo, CO was awarded the commission. The artwork was installed in April 2012.

Translated to English, “Chispa” means “Spark.” The project is a mosaic wall mural that is 160’ long by 7’ high and will be located on the front façade of ENMU-Ruidoso. The mural is an organic expression drawing upon archetypal imagery in combination with a vibrant color pattern. In an effort to provide a cultural reference to the mural, the artist chose to incorporate iconography associated with the Mimbres Indians, whose art provided an expression that is associated with the Southwest and New Mexico. The large image on the left of the mural is an interpretation of a Mimbres bowl. Characteristic of these burial vessels, the Mimbres would punch a hole in the bottom of the bowl before placing it over the head of the deceased. This hole provided a place for the spirit to exit the body and enter a new realm.

Making reference to the university setting, Latka will highlight the hole with dichroic glass to signify an area of transition and enlightenment that can be achieved by a student when they understand the true spirit of learning, the epiphany, or the “Ah Ha” moment.

The bold lightning strike that will run the length of the building is rooted in ancient symbolism and represents the power of education. Mark Twain said, “Reading is like a lightning bug, studying is like lightning.” When a student recognizes the impact that passion for an avenue of study can have on their lives, they become aware of their full potential. Hence, the title of the mural is “Chispa”, Spanish for “Spark.”