Art is powerful.
It has the ability to stop one in their tracks.
It also starts plenty a conversation.
As one walks around the city of Albuquerque, there are hundreds of public art pieces – each with its own story and purpose.
During the pandemic, the Albuquerque Arts Board stepped up to support a variety of artist groups that were experiencing overnight cancellations and closures.
In particular, when the Spanish Market and Indian Market in Santa Fe, which include many artists of New Mexico, were canceled.
Numerous arts festivals and fairs were also canceled.
By summer 2020, the Public Art Program had released four separate calls for existing works of art to try to help visual two-dimensional and three-dimensional artists.
Within months, the arts board had selected 84 works of art and helped get $300,000 into the arts community.
“We’re so fortunate that voters approve general obligation bonds because that gives us money for the Public Art Program,” says Sherri Brueggemann, manager of the Public Art Urban Enhancement Division. “We have four primary artist audiences, which were the audiences that were impacted by Spanish and Indian markets. We worked with those organizations to help artists submit online.”
Brueggemann says the other two groups are visual artists and artists working in smaller sculpture scale.
“These would be placed in government buildings,” she says. “We don’t typically do small sculpture because there’s a lot of handling for us, though it’s important to have those smaller 3D works.”
Brueggemann says since the county moved out of City Hall there has been a lot of reorganization happening in the building.
“The city has redone the hallways and painted the walls,” she says. “By the time the project is completed, we will have places for every piece of art.”
The time line for completion is in the fall and Brueggemann hopes to have a holiday open house, which will include the convention center.
“The artists will then be able to see the 84 new works installed,” she says. “The city staff is so appreciative of having the art. The public visits these buildings and the art helps not only give a piece of culture, but warms up the area.”
The Albuquerque Arts Board highlights five of the 84 pieces.
1. Reyes Padilla, “Feria en el Canon”
Padilla is a New Mexico native known for utilizing synesthesia, where he sees color through music. The piece is mica shales and acrylic on canvas, and is located at the convention center.
“Years ago, I learned from Reyes that he was going back to his family’s property in northern New Mexico to mine his own mica,” Brueggemann says. “This was one of his biggest pieces at the time.”
Brueggemann says the piece had an added mystical quality and the darkness of the painting brings a new level of texture.
“I’m so pleased that this was a phase in his career,” she says.
2. Darby Raymond-Overstreet, “Matriarch”
Raymond-Overstreet’s piece is scanned Navajo textile, canvas, print, pine and yarn. It is located on the sixth floor of City Hall in the Department of Arts and Culture lobby.
“Darby was one of the artists that had been already invited to Indian Market,” Brueggemann says.
Raymond-Overstreet lives in Chimayó, although she was born and raised in Arizona.
Brueggemann said she studies, works with and creates Navajo/Diné pattern designs that materialize through portraits, landscapes and abstract forms.
Her work is heavily inspired by and derived from Traditional Diné/Navajo textiles, with particular interest in pieces woven in the late 1800s-1950s.
3. Mick Burson, “Chair Stair”
The piece is oil, acrylic and graphite on canvas. It is located in the Convention Center.
Brueggemann says the painting pushes the idea of still life.
“Amazingly, we have the perfect place for this,” she says. “It’s in the convention center, where a lot of conferences are held. We often line up chairs and this piece is a great abstraction of the way we think of furniture inside the convention center.”
4. Natalie Voelker, “Davetta”
In 2017, local activist Davetta Wilson sat for Voelker.
“Davetta has been a prominent community organizers and supporter for years,” Brueggemann says. “She’s done these projects for the International District and now the piece will hang there.”
Brueggemann says “Davetta” traveled to the National Portait Gallery in London in 2019 and then through Europe after that through mid-2020.
Brueggemann has always enjoyed Voelker’s work.
“What’s amazing about Natalie’s work is she paints every day people and captures them in their attire,” she says. “She’s able to capture all their mannerisms.”
Voelker’s selected pieces, which also includes “Melissa,” are both oil on canvas. Both will be installed at the International District Library.
5. Cara Romero, “Last Indian Market”
The piece is photography archival pigment and is located on the first floor of City Hall in the Albuquerque Community Safety office.
Romero is a Santa Fe-based photographer and was featured in PBS’ “Craft in America” in 2019.
She is a member of the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe.
Brueggemann says it’s been an interesting process of finding a location for Romero’s piece.
“There are many subtle iconic images in this piece,” she says. “Some are not so subtle and that’s what makes it great. It’s hanging in the Community Safety office, and visitors and employees like it a lot. It sparks a lot of dialogue, which is what it’s meant to do.”