Marina Hein shows off a simple stitching project the Socorro Rail Advocates offered at the Community Arts Party.
Cathy Cook | El Defensor Chieftain photos

Attendees at the annual Community Arts Party in Socorro Saturday were greeted with brown paper bags and a sharpie to label their bag with their name, so they’d have something to carry all of their artwork home in.

Bag in hand, they could enter the Parkview Elementary School gym and make a dizzying array of crafts: valentines, corn husk dolls, tie-dye t-shirts, buttons, paper snakes, washer necklaces, painted tiles, leatherwork, cross stitch, paper masks and more.

“We’re at 10:45 a.m. and this is about as many people as we had for half the day last year, and we’ve only been open 45 minutes,” said Dana Chavez, coordinator for New Mexico Tech Performing Arts Series, which organizes the Arts Party.

Deb Williams brought her son Wyatt and daughter Josie all the way from Magdalena.

“We are having a lot of fun,” Williams said.

She wasn’t sure what to expect but was pleasantly surprised by the sheer number of crafts available.

Andrea Gonzales and her son Ayden Gonzales did know what to expect since they come every year. The pair were tie-dying t-shirts outside—Andrea’s favorite craft. Andrea convinced Ayden he needed to put on both plastic gloves, not just one, before he could help dye the t-shirt, or he’d go home with dyed hands.

“We have a couple years’ worth of shirts from here,” she said.

Becky Titus also comes every year, with a new art project for everyone to complete. This year’s project was spiral sneaky snakes, adorned in poms, chenille stems, stickers or wiggly eyes, with pink felt tongues. Titus isn’t sure yet what project she’ll offer next year, but there is a project she’s had on her mind.

“I don’t know if I’ll be able to do this next year or not, but I’d like to make a giant house of cardboard.”

Titus would save corrugated cardboard for 52 cards of different sizes.

“Then the kids can pick what they want, jack of clubs or diamonds, and make that card. Then we’ll make it into the house. Hopefully some year. Maybe next year.”

The event had lots of helpful volunteers like Titus this year, including volunteers from New Mexico Tech student clubs, Socorro High School’s student council, Upward Bound, Alberta House, Positive Outcomes, Presbyterian and SCOPE.

Elebello Cordova volunteered at the clay table. In between helping people with their clay projects, he made his own set of clay snails.

“I’ve been doing clay for a while, and I thought it’d be fun,” he said.

Not every volunteer was there just for fun though. Some were crafting for a cause, like the Socorro Rail Advocates, who offered a simple cross stitch project: backstitching handkerchiefs with “Don’t hold the line,” to advocate for bringing the Rail Runner passenger train service farther south to Socorro. The train’s southernmost stop is 40 minutes north of Socorro in Belen.

“It’s a shame that the Rail Runner stops in Belen,” said Mitchell McLaughlin. “A lot of people don’t have cars and a lot of people commute as well. If you’re driving down, you lose two hours. You can’t do anything. You can’t work in the car, but faculty that work at Tech, students, may be able to do work in the train. It’d free up a lot of time. We think it’d be really good for the community, the economy.”

They plan to send the handkerchiefs to state legislators, said Marina Hein. Their next big step will likely be talking to the Socorro City Council.

Among the many crafts to choose from, Chavez’s favorite was hard to pin down, but it might be the painted tiles.

“The tile project was started almost 10 years ago, and these tiles have ended up at the plaza, at the hospital, on School of Mines Road. They’re in Elfego Baca Park. All of those beautiful tiles that you see all over the town, they came from here,” she said.

The tile project lets kids see their artwork out in the community long after the Arts Party has passed.

“It’s really awesome that we have something that’s not just fun for them to do here, but it actually lends to the beauty of our town.”