Jane's Walks offer a guided tour of the art and history of ABQ's streets - Albuquerque Journal

Jane’s Walks offer a guided tour of the art and history of ABQ’s streets

On Orchard Place, east of 11th Street, is the house that was once the home of prominent Albuquerque author Erna Fergusson. It’s on the “Mountain Road Arts Corridor Walk.” (Courtesy of David Ryan)

Midmorning on a recent Sunday, Doreen McKnight, David Ryan and Ryan’s two small dogs, Sparky and Sami, are guiding an interested party on a walk through the Mountain Road/Wells Park neighborhood they call home.

They take a left off Slate Avenue onto Forrester Avenue and stroll north.

“This is a very cool street,” Ryan said. “This street is famous for its Halloween trick-or-treat party. It attracts people from all over Albuquerque. They block off Forrester and Eighth Street to the east with hay bales, and the streets are filled with trick-or-treaters. Some people have smoke machines, or put up screens to show movies like ‘Dracula.’ ”

McKnight, president of the Wells Park Neighborhood Association, has lived in other parts of this area for 13 years.

“The first Halloween I was here I bought all this candy and no one came,” she said. “I found out they were all over here on Forrester.”

This ceramic-tile covered bench is one of four at “The Poet’s Plaza” at Seventh Street and Mountain Road.(Courtesy of David Ryan)

Breaking pretty

Forrester need not depend on Halloween for entertaining chills. The front porch of the house on the west side of the street is the site of a “Breaking Bad” episode in which Todd shoots Andrea to punish Jesse.

On this sunny morning, however, Forrester is just a very pleasant place to be.

“The houses are so pretty, the landscaping so interesting and it’s wooded,” Ryan said, indicating the tree-lined sidewalks.”

Ryan, who has lived in this area for more than five years, is the moving force behind Albuquerque’s version of Jane’s Walks, free, volunteer-led neighborhood walks held in cities around the world. The walks are named for urban activist Jane Jacobs and usually take place the first weekend in May.

Participants are introduced to the architecture, heritage, culture, social history and trends in a particular part of a city.

Two different but adjacent Jane’s Walks – the “Mountain Road Arts Corridor” and “Troche Moche” walks – will take place between 9 a.m. and noon Saturday, May 6. Both start at Julianna Kirwin Printmaking Studio at Eighth Street and Mountain Road.

The “Arts Corridor” walks are scheduled for 9 a.m., 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. The “Troche Moche” walks will be at 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Both walks are slightly more than two miles long and take an hour to 90 minutes to complete.

Ryan and McKnight are among those guiding the walks. On this morning, they are doing a dry run of the “Mountain Road Arts Corridor Walk.”

Painted in 2021, this colorful mural is one of the more recent additions to attractions on the “Mountain Road Arts Corridor Walk.” (Courtesy of David Ryan)

Murals and more

“There are so many buildings in this neighborhood that used to be a store of some kind,” McKnight said.

The building at the northeast corner of Mountain Road and Forrester Avenue has housed Slow Burn Coffee, a coffee roaster and shop, since 2020, but in the past it has served as a grocery store, architect’s studio and performance space, among other things. Rumor Pizza at 724 Mountain Road NW was once a gas station.

Ryan said that prior to World War II, a time before the automobile became a dominant force in American society, neighborhoods were built to accommodate walking. People could walk to the grocery store, the barber shop or a butcher shop.

Walkers today will encounter colorful murals and imaginative yard art along the “Arts Corridor” tour. One of the most recent murals, painted in 2021, is on a wall on Orchard Street. Also on Orchard is the former home of Erna Fergusson (1888-1964), a prominent Albuquerque author. The branch library at 3700 San Mateo Blvd. NE is named for her.

The Harwood Art Center at 1114 Seventh St. NW was built as a Methodist girls boarding school in the 1920s, but it now serves the art community and includes a Montessori school. On the Harwood grounds is “The Poet’s Plaza,” a haven for the literary minded and the foot sore. The plaza features four inviting ceramic-tile covered benches boasting lines of poetry by Mary Oliver, Joy Harjo, Jimmy Santiago Baca and Rumi.

Verse you can take to heart – or sit on.

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