Art can be defined in many ways, it can take many shapes, and create powerful emotional responses within us.

I’ve yet to meet a person that would not agree that art has influenced their lives in one way or another. Let’s take music, for example. Can you still remember the song that played on the radio when you got your first kiss? What about the first concert that you attended, and the way that the bass shook you to your core? Think about the poem that you recited during your wedding vows or how you felt when you saw your very first live theatrical performance. Art is so much more than paintings and sculptures. We speak through art, we meditate through it, release anger through it, we are motivated by it, and even consumed by it. There is an art movement happening in our downtown. A movement that started as a whisper and grew to a glorious clamoring of talent and thirst. Yes, we are a community thirsty for new artistic experiences. Creative Carlsbad Arts Council and the Pearl of the Pecos Arts & Culture District are spearheading the arts movement with city-wide partnerships, working to satiate that thirst.

I invite you to join me as I take you on a literary tour of the vibrant arts and culture at your doorstep. We begin our outing bright and early at a local café, situated snugly just outside of the downtown area. With coffee in hand, and a corner table calling your name, take a moment to absorb the ambiance. You are surrounded by original works of art, hand-painted by local artists. As you settle in, the aroma of fresh ground coffee lingers in the air and you can’t help but tap your feet to the sounds of an acoustic guitar just outside the door. Ah, as the art and the caffeine are beginning to kick in, you are inspired to take a stroll. Don’t forget to drop a dollar or two in the guitar case on your way out.

Like the gentle current of the Pecos River, you find yourself drawn downtown, among decades of historical buildings, including an old movie theatre in progress of rehabilitation, a rose garden at the feet of an architecturally inspiring courthouse, and a variety of charming locally-owned shops and galleries. Canopies of tree-lined sidewalks glisten in the sunlight, guiding you as you weave in and out of the shops. Your arms begin to grow weary, as your shopping bags swell with one-of-a-kind works of art and treasures. Near a bench just ahead, your attention is drawn to a person, bent at the waist with chalk in hand. Curiously, you approach to find an almost-complete composition of color and creativity on the sidewalk before you. It’s your lucky day, take a seat on the bench and observe this local artist as he transforms a concrete canvas into an original masterpiece.

The breeze is warm and brings with it a mouth-watering sense of lunchtime. As the saying goes, “follow your nose” — the culinary arts are calling! You’ve reached one of the tallest, and what appears to be one of the oldest buildings in the district. Behind its stately doors lies more than the cure for your hunger pangs. You can feel the wild west energy that came before you, in a time of dusty cowboy brawls and pioneering city founders. Your waitress sweetly smiles as she pours you a taste of locally produced chardonnay and suggests an entrée featuring green chile as the signature ingredient. Muy caliente, and tantalizing to your taste buds, you slump back into the chair, satisfied beyond your expectations.

Revived, you pay your check and make your way to the exit. A colorful flier in the window catches your eye, “live concert TONIGHT at the arts park!” Your hostess benevolently directs you to the venue, just a stone’s throw away from the restaurant. With shopping bags in tow, you are on to explore even more astounding works of art. Unexpectantly, winding trails, picturesque landscaping, and sculptures emerge before you as you enter this respite in the heart of the city. You can almost feel time slowing down as you admire the sculptures. Frozen in a perfect moment, these works of art conjure happy childhood memories within you. Take a breath and embrace those simpler times. Thoughtfully painted, over-looking the terrace, a vibrant mural depicting the deep-rooted culture of Carlsbad catches your gaze. Moving closer, you are pleasantly surprised to find the entrance of a perfectly appointed museum and art center, complete with Carlsbad’s very own Hall of Fame exhibit, locally sourced art, an interactive train display, and so much more.

Your senses are, by now, nearing an overload. Time for a reset. Marked with the timeless Reader sculpture just beyond the concrete performance platforms, you find yourself edging toward the public library. Interesting, twisted metal scrolls along the length of the ample doors. With a gentle heave, you pull the door open, and before both feet are inside, you allow yourself to become lost in the multitudes of books, a plethora of discovery, and a quiet place to escape for an hour or two. With a few clicks of a mouse, a virtual card catalog directs you to that delicious fiction you have been craving. As you switch your phone to silent mode, you notice the time. One hour and 42 minutes to kill before the concert in the park, there is no time like the present to disappear into a fantasy realm with your favorite protagonist. A quick registration, and crisp new library card in hand, you have the world at your fingertips. The gentle hum of intermittent whispers and the “tat, tat, tat” of keys from a nearby computer station make the perfect sanctuary for your literary indulgence.

The evening’s glow spills through the window behind your chair, warming your shoulders and urging you to check the time. A few minutes shy of an hour have flown by, and a grumbling twinge of hunger reminds you of the charming patio dining that you passed by after your morning coffee fix. If you hurry, you can make it back to the arts park in time for the concert. Shopping bags still in hand, you opt to drive your car the quick, two city blocks back to the restaurant. A charming host greets you upon arrival, and ushers you to a perfectly calculated place beneath the shade of an outstretched ebony patio umbrella. Wine menu in hand, a waiter with a large tray of entrées for the next table sparks your appetite. “What is that dish?” you ask him, pointing at a particularly beautiful plate of food. Without hesitation, you order, “What she’s having.” Paired with a craft lager and served in a chilled glass, you are quite pleased with your selection. The meal does not disappoint, and you sponge the last remnants of sauce from your plate with a slice of bread.

The sun shows mercy on this hot desert town as it falls below the horizon and a cool breeze sends you on your way. Vintage style lamp posts illuminate, lighting your path back to the arts park. Riding on the wind, a faint vibration of a harmonica tickles your ears. The concert is starting! Picking up the pace, you send an impromptu text invite to one of your most spontaneous pals. You aren’t surprised when you arrive, to see your friend, already on-site, stepping out of his car with a picnic blanket tucked under his arm and a smile on his face. In fact, everyone at the concert was smiling. The stage lights flickered and danced to the bluesy tunes that resonated between the downtown buildings. The night came alive as we swayed and sang the chorus. Children playfully rolled down the park’s grassy hills, laughing as their parents got lost in the music. Young couples held each other close as the evening drew on, and you and your compadre laughed until you cried. The performer obliged an encore, and graciously thanked his new fans for a memorable show in Carlsbad, New Mexico.

It is here; your literary tour comes to an end. With much left unwritten and experiences left to be had, I urge you to visit the Pearl of the Pecos Arts and Culture District in Downtown Carlsbad. The arts are awake, and they will meet you there with open arms.

Visit www.pearlofthepecos.org to learn more and/or get involved with the arts movement!

Article originally published in Focus on Carlsbad 2020 Summer edition.