Bernalillo County's Public Art Program adds sense of community

Bernalillo County’s Public Art Program continues to add to sense of community

“Silverado Skies” is located at Bernalillo County @ Alvarado Square, 415 Silver SW. (Courtesy of Bernalillo County Public Art Program)

Editor’s note:

The fourth 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.”

In 1992, Bernalillo County’s Public Art Program was established.

The intent of the program is to promote and encourage public awareness of the arts and cultural properties and to integrate art into Bernalillo County facilities and structures.

Thirty years have passed and the program has more than 500 works of art – a number that continues to grow.

Kent Swanson is the Public Art Project coordinator for the county. When it comes to knowing about the many pieces of art in the program, he’s definitely in the know.

Swanson took the opportunity to pick out five of the county’s newest pieces of public art, which is funded by 1% of the county’s general obligation bond that are passed during the general election every two years.

Because the pieces are purchased with the bonds, each piece has to be on public and permanent display.

Swanson says each public art piece energizes public spaces, as well as inspire thoughts and conversations.

Here are five of the newest pieces located around the county.

  1. Silverado Skies
“Silverado Skies” is located at Bernalillo County @ Alvarado Square, 415 Silver SW. (Courtesy of Bernalillo County Public Art Program)

Swanson says hundreds of citizens from all five districts came together to create the project.

The glass art mosaic is designed by artist Gail Christofferson. It is located at Bernalillo County @ Alvarado Square at 415 Silver SW.

Swanson says in spring nine 4-foot-by-8-foot framed glass mosaic panels were installed in the new Bernalillo County headquarters. Those interested can find out more information at animalhouseglass.com/portfolio/ bernalillocounty newmexico

2. South Valley Pool Mosaic

The mosaic at the South Valley Pool and Splash Pad is located at 3912 Isleta Blvd. SW. (Courtesy of Bernalillo County Public Art Program)

Swanson says there is a new mosaic coming soon to the South Valley Pool and Splash Pad located at 3912 Isleta Blvd. SW.

Local artist Joel Davis is the mastermind behind the project, which will feature animals from the Rio Grande’s bosque, scenes of Albuquerque’s mesas, and beautiful New Mexico skies.

Davis grew up in the South Valley attending Adobe Acres Elementary, Harrison Middle School, and Rio Grande High School.

Swanson says Davis’ mosaic technique is unusual because he cuts shapes out of thick porcelain or stone and often includes art-deco/folk nouveau elements in his art.

“In this project, Joel has worked with students from nearby schools to teach them about the art of mosaic (design) and to share his love of the South Valley,” Swanson says.

The piece is expected to be completed on Dec. 1.

• • •

The next three pieces are all located at the Alvarado Square Sculpture Gallery.

Swanson says this year, the Bernalillo County Public Art Program installed a new sculpture gallery on the second floor skybridge of Bernalillo County @ Alvarado Square, the flagship building for Bernalillo County government located at 415 Silver Ave. SW.

“With skylights and a wall of west-facing windows spanning the entire length of the hallway, the skybridge provides a beautiful space for the new sculptures,” Swanson says.

Here several standout pieces from among the eight new sculptures installed in the gallery:

3. “Tesuque Garden” John Barnett Wood Carving in Aspen

“Tesuque Garden” by John Barnett is located in the Alvarado Square Sculpture Gallery at 415 Silver Ave. SW. (Courtesy of Bernalillo County Public Art Program)

Swanson says John Barnett is an Albuquerque-based artist working in wood carving.

“His intricate and delicate works capture the essence of New Mexico’s cultures and beautiful landscapes,” he says. ”

4. “Sinusodial Waves” by Ema Tanigaki

Sinusoidal Waves” by Ema Tanigaki is installed at the Alvarado Square Sculpture Gallery at 415 Silver Ave. SW. (Courtesy of Bernalillo County Public Art Program)

Swanson says Ema Tanigaki was born in Kanazawa, Japan, and works in a variety of media including jewelry, sculpture and large-scale public artworks.

“Ema’s work recently won third place in the Lewton-Brain Foldform Competition, an organization that celebrates unique and innovative techniques in metal work,” he says.

5. “Serenity” by Estella Loretto

“Serenity” by Estella Loretto was installed in 2022 at Alvarado Square Sculpture Gallery at 415 Silver Ave. SW. (Courtesy of Bernalillo County Public Art Program)

Swanson says Estella Loretto is currently the only Native American woman working in monumental bronze sculpting and is recognized internationally as one of the finest sculptors living today.

“Estella was commissioned by Most Rev. Michael J. Sheehan to create a monumental bronze statue of Saint Kateri, which has welcomed visitors at the entrance to Saint Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe since 2003,” he says.

Meanwhile, Loretto says of “Serenity,” “This is an original piece that I did during COVID time. It was a difficult time of insolation and very challenging for me, so creating something very peaceful and serene was my goal. She has her medicine bag in one hand, and the other hand is accepting and letting go.”

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