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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Public art has the power to inspire curiosity.
It also encourages contemplation.
Not to mention it facilitates dialogue.
And it helps build community engagement by giving a sense of place.
This is the exact reason the Bernalillo County Public Arts Program continues to add to its collection.
As social distancing becomes part of the new normal, Kent Swanson, public art project coordinator, took some time to highlight five public art pieces around the county.
Swanson says one of the great things about public art is that you can experience it in so many different contexts.
“Public art can be found in our parks and open spaces, on streets medians, at bus stops, at community and senior centers, libraries, and municipal buildings throughout the county,” Swanson says.
“By taking the time to stop and truly be present with an artwork we can experience where we live, work and play in a totally different way. Public art is known to have health benefits as well. There are studies that show that people in medical facilities that feature art can experience less anxiety, lower pain levels and faster healing.”
The pieces are in the open, so visitors can social distance responsibly.
Located on the Alameda Drain Trail, west of Second NW between Willow Road and Vineyard Road NW, sits “Grr-Hiss Masquerade.”
The piece is by Evelyn Rosenberg and Steve Borbas.
Swanson says it is one of the newest pieces in the county public art collection and was dedicated on Aug. 1, 2019.
The work is part of the “Outposts” public art project, a Bernalillo County Arts Board initiative, which aims to place 25 new public art works throughout the five districts of the county over several years.
“So far, four sculptures have been installed, located on Second Street on a new multi-use trail along the Alameda Drain,” Swanson says. “I encourage people to park their cars and walk the new trail, read about the history of this unique waterway on the plaques found on the trail.”
Travel down to the Rio Bravo Skate Park, 3912 Isleta SW, and visitors will find “La Corriente del Valle: The Flow of the Valley” by Joe Stephenson and Working Classroom.
The mural was completed in 2014.
Swanson says the mural is striking in that it captures so much of the history, culture and iconic places of the South Valley with vibrant colors and realistic imagery.
It’s also an immersive experience, he says.
“Native plants and wildlife such as sandhill cranes and sunflowers, images of local farms and farmers’ markets, La Llorona, the old Sunset drive-in movie theater, they’re all here,” Swanson says. “Walking the length of the mural is akin to a history lesson of the region and its cultures. This mural is great for kids who may recognize places and people from their neighborhoods in the mural’s panels.”
Located in front of the Hiland Theater, 4800 Central SE, is “RT 66 Reels and Wheels.”
The steel sculpture by Howard Meehan became part of the public art program collection in 2016.
Swanson says the two-part art piece is a combination sculpture/bus stop.
He says the piece was inspired by the shape of an old movie reel, and a stand-alone sculpture adjacent to the bus stop looks like a hot rod shooting flames as it reeves up.
“The two ‘wheels’ of the sculpture are shaped like sixes, a reference to Albuquerque’s connection to the Mother Road/Route 66,” he says “The entirety of the piece is a love letter to a city known as a destination for film production and a love of car culture.”
Head back to the west side to Skyview Park, 1200 Andrea Circle NW, and visitors will find “Gambel’s Quail.”
The bronze sculptures were installed in 2019 and were made by artist Tim Mullane.
Swanson says Mullane’s piece references Albuquerque’s diverse wildlife as Gambel’s quail are found throughout the Albuquerque area.
“You might spot a group of them when hiking the trails of the West Mesa or east mountains,” Swanson explains. “The work is playful and larger than life, and is perfectly situated in a small park just outside of Corrales. If you love bronze sculpture, this piece is a must-see.”
Mullane is the Dean of Fine Arts at Albuquerque Academy.
At 20 feet in diameter, “Common Ground” by Cassandra Reid is a big piece of public art.
The mosaic tile piece is located at the Public Safety Memorial Park, 49 Public School Road in Tijeras. It was completed in 2017.
Swanson says the work serves to honor the women and men who work in public safety.
“The design features a compass centered in a labyrinth, with paths and seating areas around the compass that invite meditation and reflection,” Swanson says. “Experiencing the entirety of the mosaic is exquisite, but one of the joys of the piece is getting lost in the beauty of each individual tile and stone.”
Editor’s note: The third Sunday of each month, Journal Arts Editor Adrian Gomez tells the stories behind some of the hidden gems you can see across the state in “Gimme Five.”
To visit the Bernalillo Country Public Art Program site, visit bernco.gov/community-services/public-art-program.asp. The interactive map can be found at bernco.gov/community-services/public-art-collection.asp
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