ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Leveraging local artistic talent and fans’ full-blooded support, New Mexico United has created a chance for children across the state, regardless of income, to play elite soccer.
United is collaborating with local artists to create merchandise the club will sell in its team store. The team will use the money from the sales to support its High Performance Program that will offer elite soccer training to youth ages 12 to 17.
“One of the tenets since the founding of the club was to merge sports and arts,” said Elizabeth Davis, director of marketing and communications for United. “Especially having Meow Wolf as a sponsor. We have a vibrant artist community in New Mexico.”
Davis said initially they didn’t know what that would look like but eventually decided to draw inspiration from the fans and local artists they were seeing at festivals and markets.
United has a trademark on its logo, the Somos Unidos phrase and the name of the team. Davis said fans are allowed to make their own art but not mass produce or sell it to the public. She said the new collaboration allows fan art to be available to a larger market. The art must support the team’s eco-friendly mission.
“We want products that are environmentally friendly,” she said. “We want to be stewards of our community and that includes our lands.”
New Mexico assistant coach Zach Prince is the director for High Performance Program. He said the 60 children and teens chosen to participate will get 10, two-hour training sessions, a chance to play in exhibition games against other youth USL teams and a chance to compete in the inaugural “USL Academy Cup” held in May 2020 in Tampa, Florida.
Prince said the cost of soccer can be prohibitive to some families.
“From the beginning, we wanted to maintain a free program,” Prince said. “We want there to be no financial barriers for the families. If you come with the right attitude and right talent, you can play.”
Davis said the shop, which is located at 3500 Central SE, Suite 2, will rotate collaborating artists. Those chosen for the inaugural run were high school art teacher and Downright Nerdy Design owner Lindsey Allen, and ceramic artist Shane Silva who owns Shane Silva Pottery. Each artist has become a huge fan of the team but got to that point along very different paths.
Allen is a former soccer player who joined The Curse – a supporter’s group made up of fans – at the first game. She can be spotted at the tailgates and cheering in the supporter’s sections at almost every home game. She specializes in 3D printing and has created earrings in black and yellow featuring the New Mexico United shield. Allen said she already had the printer at home and had been making earrings for herself when she decided to make a pair she could wear to the United games.
“I thought it was a cool way to support the team,” she said. “And it’s in a way that’s fashionable and unique.”
She wore the earrings, which are made of a fast biodegrading plant-based polymer, to the first home match and they were a hit. Friends started asking her to make some for them and she did. Their popularity with fans caught the attention of United staff. They are now selling in the store for $20.
Silva began making pottery during high school.
“I was terrible at it,” he said. “It was something that was a challenge for me so I wanted to do it. I wanted to get better.”
He did get better and his talent got him noticed. Silva said he didn’t give much thought to sports, including the state’s new soccer team, before a chance meeting with CEO and United majority owner Peter Trevisani. Silva said he was selling his pottery at a local market when Trevisani approached him and asked if he would be interested in designing a mug for the team. Silva said he was thrilled and agreed. He also started paying attention to the team. He watched matches from home and attended his first game Sept. 1.
“There was a lot of people,” he said. “Oh my gosh. I was so surprised.”
Silva said the energy of the fans has inspired him to keep creating and made him a New Mexico United fan for life.
“I was not much of a sports fan before this,” he said. “But this is something I can get into because it’s part of the community.”
His mugs are available at the store for $40.
Coming up next in the series are earrings from fans and Two Stoned Betties owners Sara Roman and Kayla Mansfield of Two Stoned Betties and black and yellow bracelets made by Laguna pueblo member Myron Rueben.
Meanwhile, although making the earrings was initially a labor of love and self-expression, Allen said she’s excited to see them having a bigger impact.
“Knowing it’s (the collaboration) is helping our youth is really gratifying,” she said. “I’m happy to know my creativity can give back to the community.”