The following is from the Aug. 7, 2007, edition of The Albuquerque Journal

SMU students are tearing down a crumbling adobe wall

Journal Staff Writer

Eiseley, a senior majoring in art history, works on the church's adobe wall. Read her blog about the project.
Click photos to see larger versions. Photos courtesy of SMU Prof. Adam Herring

LAS TRAMPAS — A little bit of Texas is working its way into the San José de Gracia Catholic Church this week. Eleven students and their art history professor, Adam Herring, from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, are sharing shovels and a single pick ax to tear down a crumbling adobe wall that surrounds the church’s camposanto, or cemetery, as well as patching places on the church’s exterior adobe walls that need remudding.

Part of an intensive 2 1/2- week class, Art and Architecture of Hispanic New Mexico, this week’s project at the church is the first time Herring has incorporated a hands-on segment in his some seven years of bringing students to Fort Burgwin’s SMU-in-Taos campus.

Taking a break from digging, Herring looked around at the crew on Monday.

“SMU students are always very personable, always good diplomats,” said Herring, who specializes in pre-Columbian art of the Americas. “These are tomorrow’s leaders. I’m hoping to create an awareness and a sense that this is their backyard and a place they can make a difference.”

Only one, Sarah Stradtman, 20, a junior from Dallas, had ever worked with adobe.

“I worked on houses in Reynosa and Juarez, Mexico, with mission trips through my church,” said Stradtman, of projects with the Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas. “We built them from the ground up.”

Sam Sawyer, 21, of Memphis, had worked construction before.

“But it was cement, not adobe, and we were building a shopping mall,” said Sawyer, who was swinging the pick ax like someone who had once been paid for it.

But all the students were gamely pitching in, tearing down the existing crumbling adobes, whether with hands, shovels or pick ax. Two of the 11 were siblings — Hayley Evans, 21, and Preston Evans, 20, of Dallas.

“Hayley and I were saying, ‘Our dad would laugh if he saw us,’ ’’ Preston said. “So we’re going to take lots of photos. He’s in commercial real estate and development. He’s definitely on the other end of things.”

Their supervisors, Jose L. Lopez, one of three mayordomos, or overseers, in Las Trampas, and Antonio Martinez, the technical coordinator for Cornerstones Community Partnerships of Santa Fe, which is organizing the project, were happy with the crew. . .

While the SMU students are mostly tearing down collapsing portions of the west and south walls of the cemetery, they are rebuilding about 15 feet of the north wall but only putting in two rows of adobes at a time and then letting them dry well first. Lopez plans to bring in some experienced adobe workers to lay the rest of the bricks, in the hopes that the wall problem can be solved.

Read the full story and see additional photos.

Read a related story and photos in The Santa Fe New Mexican

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