Artists adding a pop of color along Central

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Bridging the gap through art.

It’s a process that has worked for centuries by starting dialogue within a community.

In the next 20 days, 50 murals will come to life at 33 locations across the Central corridor in Albuquerque as part of Mural Fest 2018.

The annual event is meant to beautify, unify and showcase the city utilizing the murals.

“We have a running roster of 50 muralists,” said Jay Spang, Mural Fest co-producer. “We’re going through 12 neighborhoods and bridging the whole Central corridor together.”

This year’s locations stretch along Central Avenue from Duran’s Central Pharmacy just west of 12th NW all the way east to the Flying Star and Empire Board Game near Central and Carlisle NE.

Bearface clears the valve of his spray paint can before painting the wall of the Rustic Star restaurant on Central as he participates in Mural Fest 2018. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

The festival theme this year is “When Nature Calls” and it brings focus to Earth’s climate crisis and how it is affecting all life.

“From California being on fire to Houston, Puerto Rico and Hawaii drowning in water and lava to New Mexico facing one of the worst droughts in history, we felt a need to bring our world community together through murals, music and culinary arts to highlight solutions we can all play a part in moving forward,” Spang said.

Most of the work on the murals will be done in the coming week, which is the first week of the festival.

Albuquerque artist Christian Michael Gallegos is one of the many artists returning to produce a mural for the festival.

Gallegos is working on a piece at Empire Board Game near Central and Carlisle.

He’s excited to work on another project and has a few tricks up his sleeve.

“There are a lot of gaming elements that I’ve incorporated into the piece,” Gallegos said. “There’s some Monopoly images, as well as chess pieces and backgammon dice.”

Gallegos says he was inspired by this year’s theme of nature.

“I had a chance to put the spin on their gaming element,” he says. “I’m a big advocate for beautifying the community through public art. Getting exposure and trying to make my mark for this city is always the goal. You want to get people talking about the pieces. That’s what starts all of the conversations.”

Muralist Bearface spray paints the front of the Rustic Star restaurant on Central Avenue. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Events will be peppered in throughout the more than two weeks.

JP Eaglin, Mural Fest co-producer, said interest for this year’s festival has grown immensely over last year.

“We sent out a call to artists, and we had over 400 replies,” Eaglin said.

Each location is chosen very similarly to the way artists are selected.

“We want to find owners of walls that want to showcase public art,” Eaglin said. “Art is a transformative process of healing and moving our community together as one.”

Last year, the event produced 45 murals in 12 locations.

“We’ve had many in the community and neighborhood associations reach out and we’ve been able to delegate more. The fest has grown more because we have a well-rounded community effort behind us.”

Because Mural Fest aligns with the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, Eaglin said the festival is offering visitors a chance to participate in adventures in art, music and cuisine spurring economic growth for local businesses and the city’s artist community.

There is a festival pass – available for $50 – that has discounts on goods and services to more than 100 businesses along the Central corridor.

“Since the ART project hit those businesses hard, we wanted to infuse it a little with some of the visitors,” he says. “It’s more than just putting paint on walls. Through this public art, we are able to build community and an identity.”

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