Editor’s note: On the third Sunday of every month, Journal Arts editor Adrian Gomez tells the stories behind some of the hidden gems you can see across the state in “Gimme Five.”
Public art wants to be accessible.
Often, one can pass by a room without realizing its intention.
The City of Albuquerque’s public art program has been in existence for approximately 41 years.
During this period, he acquired over 1,000 pieces for public enjoyment. The program has also seen $20 million allocated for art and is one of the oldest public arts programs.
Shelle Sanchez, director of the city’s cultural services department, says the number of public artworks acquired varies from year to year.
“There are over 1,000 works of public art in the City of Albuquerque collection – about a third of them are found outdoors in corners, outside public buildings, along streets, in parks and in open spaces,” says Sanchez. “I appreciate the surprising explosions of art along bridges and causeways that enhance our experience of space as we navigate from work to home or stroll through a park or plaza.”
The program was launched after former Mayor David Rusk signed an ordinance for public art on November 22, 1978.
The purpose of the ordinance was and continues to be “to encourage private and public programs to foster the development and public awareness and interest in the fine arts, to increase employment opportunities in arts and to encourage the integration of art into the architecture of municipal structures.
The Art in Municipal Premises Ordinance established the 1% for art funds added to Capital Improvement Program budgets, as approved by Albuquerque voters in general bond elections.
“From that bond money, we buy small 2D works of art that go into public spaces,” Sanchez explains. “We get really big chunks. And there is also a place for temporary public art.
All public art works can be found via an interactive map at cabq.gov and by searching for “interactive public art map”.
Sanchez highlights five plays that can often be missed, and each one resonates with her.
1. “Migration Home” by Susan Linnell is located on the east side near San Mateo and Constitution NE. It was installed in 2003.
“(It’s) maybe the first piece of outdoor public art I’ve really noticed,” Sanchez says. “I’m grateful that this sound wall built to shield the neighborhood from traffic noise also created a strong canvas for an artist to transform a busy road.
2. “Flyway” by Robert Wilson is located at 6500 Coors NW and resides on the east side, near the entrance to the Open Spaces Visitor Center. It was installed in 2011. Wilson created the piece from metal pieces that were once jetty jacks once used for flood control along the Rio Grande Bosque. There are 96 spokes included in the piece.
“(It’s) another one of my favorite pieces of public art. As I travel down the road, I feel like the sculpture is taking off and I’ve been tethered to my car,” says Sanchez .
3. Reynaldo Rivera’s “Los Osos del Canyon” is a bit off the beaten path to see. It is located on Tramway Boulevard near Bear Canyon Arroyo NE. It was installed in 1995.
“I also love public art that requires a bit of travel,” Sanchez says. “I visit these bears on long walks from Juan Tabo to the foothills.”
4. Many public works of art invite the public to interact. Like Cassandra Reid’s “Poet’s Plaza” at the corner of Mountain Road and Seventh Street NW. The mosaic installation was set up in 2005.
“There’s an open invitation to sit down, reflect, and read the poetry that’s part of the mosaic (or maybe even bring a book),” says Sanchez.
5. Meanwhile, “You Are Here” by Rachel Stevens is also a public work of art conducive to interaction. Stevens’ room is part of the Ventana Ranch neighborhood in northwest Albuquerque. It was installed in 2013 and is made up of five steel windows, devoid of panes, and mounted on concrete benches.
Anyone who pauses to gaze out the windows will also have a framed view of a local park, playground, and the majestic Sandia Mountains.
“Ventana Ranch Park is a place to look through windows from multiple angles and see something new or change the way you see something old,” Sanchez says. “Or just take a really fun selfie.”