By MARCELA JOHNSON
Daily Press Intern
Artist and business owner Lydia Villegas said that through her store, she has found new ventures and methods of connecting with her community — and in the process, learned a lot about the women who make Silver City work.
Villegas operates LV Studio, a business on Bullard Street where she displays her mosaic work, painted jackets and other found and repurposed items.
When she moved back to Silver City in 2007, Villegas said she had to “reinvent” herself, and mosaic tile art called to her.
“I started doing the mosaics,” she said. “I’ve always done art, but that just kind of called me, and just going around to places and seeing how much waste we have is crazy.”
Villegas said she initially started the business as something for her mother and her to do together before the pandemic. She said when she creates her works, she focuses on repurposing old tiles without using machines, cutting all pieces by hand.
“I try to give everything a second life,” she said. “As you can see, we live in a world of throwaways.”
Villegas said that she watches the world from the window of her shop, and tries to find ways to help fix the problems she sees. From these observations, Villegas decided to found the group Fight Like A Girl.
The goal is to care for the community and to create safe spaces whenever possible. The group’s motto is “See Something, Do Something,” and their symbol is a pink fist.
“We see things happening, and everybody walks by like they’re oblivious,” Villegas said. “I understand that we’re already numb to some things, but you still have to do something about it.”
Villegas said that the group provides services such as buying and putting out blankets for Silver City’s unhoused population, putting out water bowls for animals and carrying medicine for overdose emergencies.
Several businesses downtown display the organization’s symbol in their front windows to show that their store is a safe place that can provide help, and that they are part of a community watching out for one another.
LV Studio’s inventory includes stickers and signage related to Fight Like A Girl, which Villegas also freely gives out to garner interest in her cause. Villegas said that she has passed out stickers featuring the pink fist symbol at Silver High School and Western New Mexico University.
“If I was at home, I’d be stuck in front of the TV looking at all the chaos, and it’s out of my control,” she said. “What can you do?” Nothing — it’s just going to make you sad and bring in anxiety, and it doesn’t give you anything. But for me, doing something is better than not doing nothing.”
Villegas said that the pandemic hit hard the businesses surrounding her, such as Amma Guadalupe, and that the low amount of walking traffic downtown hurt them more.
“I took over from my predecessor the first of March, 2020, and were open four days, so my first year, basically my Social Security paid the rent because there was no business,” said Amma Guadalupe owner Martha Blacklock.
Women own 70 percent of the businesses downtown, according to Villegas, and most of those owners have other jobs to sustain their shops, which impacts how often those businesses can be open. She said that downtown merchants work hard to support each other.
“Take a walk downtown,” she said. “See what you can find. It’s a treasure — people from other states come and they love it here, they truly love it. It is a little hidden gem. I just need more of our community to support us when we don’t have the tourists out.”
Villegas’ work is now displayed alongside the works of Catherine Acosta Russo at this year’s Arte Chicano exhibit at the Silver City Museum. She said this is her first time being included in this type of exhibit.
Arte Chicano has been an annual exhibition at the Silver City Museum since 2016, and exhibit founder and fellow downtown business owner Diana Ingalls Leyba handpicked both of the showcased artists for 2022.