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Española lowrider museum a great idea

All of us soon may be able to, as the funk band War sang it, “take a little trip, take a little trip, take a little trip and see” a lowrider museum in Española.

A coalition in “The Lowrider Capital of the World” – take that, East L.A. – is making progress toward developing the museum as part of redevelopment of an old car dealership site. If everything runs as expected, the lowrider museum could be open this summer in a shipping container park.

That may sound like a low-cost alternative, and it is, but this shipping container thing is taking off. Hip retail/dining/brew pub centers around the country, including in Albuquerque and the up-and-coming hipster portion of Las Vegas, Nev., are being built out of the big shipping boxes, which provide a sharp, modern style when used appropriately.

The most encouraging thing is that the Lowrider Museum Coalition is putting together funding for the project, which has been a dream in the Española Valley for years.

A branch of the state Department of Tourism has agreed to match up to $50,000 that a nonprofit hopes to raise. The potential $100,000 total is tiny compared to what big-time museums spend, but is considered vital seed money to get the Española museum up and going.

The museum idea appears to have been given a big boost by the New Mexico History Museum’s popular exhibit “Lowriders, Hoppers, and Hot Rods: Car Culture of Northern New Mexico,” which closed last year. A mind-blowing lowrider show on the Santa Fe Plaza was held in conjunction with the exhibit.

Current ideas for the museum include a rotating display of lowriders from northern New Mexico; exhibits on lowrider culture, history, hydraulics and art, and maybe even a “lowrider simulator”, and tours to car and local body shops where the magic happens.

The museum is a great idea and something that public institutions, local businesses and the foundations that typically support more high-brow art should get behind if the organizers can show they can put forth an attractive, professional and sustainable gallery of the automotive arts. Judging from the enthusiasm of museum coalition leader and Española lowrider Fred Rael, they will. “I’ve always said all you need to do is give us the building and we’ll fill it,” he told Journal North’s Megan Bennett.

So crank up Rosie and the Originals’ “Angel Baby,” War’s “Lowrider” or some monster bass-heavy hip-hop, and offer cheers and good luck to the Lowrider Museum Coalition.

Exposing local culture to a bigger audience can be much more than economic development. The resulting support can also encourage maintaining the craft and preserving the history behind it.