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Hispanic center’s new sculpture to honor Lujans

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

A subtle new work of art will soon add to the magic of the National Hispanic Cultural Center campus while paying tribute to a couple who were instrumental in its creation.

After a request for qualification was issued in March for a project for the Plaza Mayor, New Mexico-based artist Paula Castillo was chosen to install her work at the center.

“The request for qualification said the art couldn’t be on the actual Plaza Mayor,” Castillo said. “Then I started to look around and see what else is there. I saw a shadow being cast and wondered if I could design something around it. I obviously didn’t want to encroach or change the beautiful facade to the building.”

Easter lilies will be die-cut out of steel and installed at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. (Courtesy of Paula Castillo)

Three pieces will be installed between the two outdoor staircases of the main building: una cúpola oculta, or hidden dome; la sentinela; and an argosy bench.

The hidden dome will be made of cut steel with a motif iteration of the “tree of life” designed to look like an Easter lily. The sentinela will be cast concrete. The argosy bench will also be cast concrete and able to hold six people.

The site-specific piece is to commemorate the substantial contributions of Virginia and Edward Lujan to the creation and continued significance of the NHCC. Completion of the project is expected by the end of the year.

The Lujans are known for their solid, yearslong support of the NHCC and community. Virginia Lujan passed away in early 2018.

Edward Lujan served as chair of the NHCC and NHCC Foundation boards for many years and was a major player in the establishment of the cultural center, a state government agency in the Department of Cultural Affairs.

A new art piece by Paula Castillo will be installed at the National Hispanic Cultural Center by the end of the year. (Courtesy of Paula Castillo)

Rebecca Avitia, NHCC executive director, said about the piece, “I believe it will be a focal point to the campus. It adds a little bit of femininity to the angular and masculine campus.”

Avitia said the exciting part about the piece is that is will be interactive.

“On Virginia Lujan’s birthday, the piece will cast a shadow, and what will be seen are four Easter lilies,” Avitia said. “On Edward Lujan’s birthday, a shadow will be cast in a different way.”

Castillo said the goal was to create a memorial to honor the Lujans.

“Their personal values and daily lived lives are fundamental to their familial and community legacy,” Castillo said. “An important artistic goal is to personalize their contributions, while maintaining respect for their larger overarching legacy.”

A bench and a sentinela will be part of a new art installation at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. (Courtesy of Paula Castillo)

Avitia said she loves that the piece captures the humble leadership of the Lujans.

“Virginia and Edward are very familial,” Avitia said. “They have used that particular approach of leadership and have infused it into the cultural center. This piece is prominent and invites for private reflection.”

Castillo says all pieces will physically exploit the facets of the architecture, art and solar system.

“The cúpola will provide a contrast of a form that offers a ‘hidden’ experience but will not dissipate original architecture.”

The cost for the entire project is $75,000.

“Our hope is to have an event revealing the piece and celebrating it on Dec. 24,” Avitia said. “We’re aiming for an install after our major events in September.”

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