Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
Burque Rio Sunset needs a little love.
The tile-like mural along the Montaño Bridge – one of about 1,400 pieces of public art in the city of Albuquerque’s collection – is now a quarter-century old and could use some restoration. City Arts and Culture Director Shelle Sanchez said it will probably run about $150,000.
Funding, however, is a persistent issue. The city has, on average, $100 per year per piece for upkeep. Though not all of the art requires regular attention, Sanchez said the city needs more resources to take care of the collection it has spent decades amassing.
“We feel like we’re really at an inflection point,” Sanchez said Monday night before the Albuquerque City Council voted on a proposal intended to address those concerns.
The council unanimously passed legislation to increase the city’s public art program funding by 50% and to devote a larger percentage of the pot to maintenance and conservation.
The bill, co-sponsored by Councilors Isaac Benton, Renee Grout and Klarissa Peña, also for the first time allows the city to use public art money for digital media and temporary installations. Sanchez said that could make the program more nimble and responsive to the community. It could, for example, now procure pieces for special events.
Grout said that change could bring new artists into the system and enhance what is already a treasured program.
“This is one of the parts of the city that I just love. … It’s just wonderful to go throughout the city all over and actually spot the places that we have all of these beautiful works of art,” Grout said.
Albuquerque’s public art program is now 44 years old. The city has historically dedicated 1% of each general obligation bond package toward the program. In the recent past, that amounted to about $1.1 million to $1.6 million every other year.
The city, however, did not initially contemplate the costs associated with maintaining the collection; even after amending the ordinance in the 1990s, the program could not spend more than 20% of its funding on maintenance and conservation.
The new legislation boosts the public art allocation to 1.5% of the bond program and ensures 25% will go toward upkeep.
Sanchez said about a third of the city’s public art collection is located somewhere outside, including many murals and sculptures. That leaves them subject to the elements, or even vandalism. Some may require only an occasional power-wash, but others need a more involved restoration, she said, and the city should be “good stewards” of what it already has.
“If you pay attention to what is photographed and shows up in social media, and what the community uses to identify the city, it’s often public art – even the things we might not realize are part of our visual consciousness about our surroundings,” Sanchez said in an interview. “People gravitate toward public art in their community.”