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Downtown art animates city

“Quantum Bridge” is a mural by Aaron Noble and apprentices at Warehouse 508.

“Quantum Bridge” is a mural by Aaron Noble and apprentices at Warehouse 508.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Aaron Noble took on his biggest project to date.

The California-based muralist worked with students from Warehouse 508 on two murals for the “Heart of the City” project presented by 516 ARTS.

The project is a collaboration that involves multiple partners to explore and document the essential roles of arts and culture in innovation, entrepreneurship and vibrant local economies.

The two murals – “Quantum Bridge” and “4th Chamber” – were started in late 2013 and wrapped up earlier this year.

“It was a challenge because this was not only the biggest mural I’ve worked on,” he says, “but it was also the first time I painted while it snowed. It was so cold, we had to use heaters to keep the wall warm so we could paint on it.”

Noble was one of a handful of guest artists invited to participate in the “Heart of the City” collaboration.

“Signs of the Times” is a new mural by Larry Bob Phillips and CNM apprentices on the Century 14 Downtown theaters examining the legacy of neon and painted signs in Albuquerque.

“Signs of the Times” is a new mural by Larry Bob Phillips and CNM apprentices on the Century 14 Downtown theaters examining the legacy of neon and painted signs in Albuquerque.

Suzanne Sbarge, executive director of 516 ARTS, says the project explores urban environment through art, urban planning, cultural and economical development, education and community dialogue.

She says the organizations involved also wanted to bring youths into the mix because they are the future to sustain a successful Downtown.

“Like the heart that pumps oxygen throughout the body, a successful Downtown enlivens the whole city,” she says. “When we discuss economic vitality and urban culture, how are we really affecting people’s lives and the younger generation who are the future of the city?”

The exhibition for the project begins on Saturday, Feb. 1 and runs through May 3. There will be a public opening reception from 6-8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1 at 516 ARTS.

In addition to the exhibit there will be music from beatboxer Zack Freeman, free haircuts in the gallery with ACE Barbershop and Gabriel Jaureguiberry spinning records.

“We wanted to create an environment that brings the community together,” Sbarge says. “It’s a way of creating more dialogue within the community.”

Muralist Aaron Noble, far right, with some apprentices from Warehouse 508.

Muralist Aaron Noble, far right, with some apprentices from Warehouse 508.

Noble came back to Albuquerque and spent about five weeks working on the murals. He says there were at least six people helping him out with the work on the project.

“The opportunity was one that I wanted to get a chance to participate in,” Noble says. “Working with the youth really brought out a new energy in me.”

Noble has participated in exhibits in Albuquerque before. He also has murals up in Beijing, Culver City, Calif., London, Djogykarta, Indonesia, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.

Noble says being able to work on the mural and be a part of the project is something that he has participated in with other cities.

“This gets the entire community to join together and learn about art,” he says. “I’m thankful that they thought of me to do this mural and work with students from the area. When I get back I think we’re going to do some touch-ups on the entire project. We probably still can’t seal the wall until it’s above 50 degrees for some time.”

Noble will be giving a presentation at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28 at Central New Mexico Community College.

“This is going to be interesting because I get a chance to explain the entire process to those that are interested,” he says. “It’s a cool way of getting more involved and giving a glimpse behind the scenes.”

Sbarge also has planned an exhibition with Ace Barbershop where owner Jaureguiberry will cut hair and spin music.

“Downtown is a reflection of our state and the nation’s spectrum of people,” he says. “As a barber and small business owner, I continue to live with this stew of color. A barbershop is home base for communication and relaxation. We contact all styles. I have witnessed the exchange of ideas and culture, gossip and fashion, humor and fists.”

Axle Contemporary used this van to take photos for its “E Pluribus Unum (One From Many)” project.

Axle Contemporary used this van to take photos for its “E Pluribus Unum (One From Many)” project.

Another project to be showcased is Axle Contemporary’s “E Pluribus Unum (One From Many).” The project is spearheaded by Jerry Wellman and Matthew Chase-Daniel. The two artists took black-and-white photos of residents in Albuquerque and Santa Fe and will put the portraits in a book.

“This is just the beginning of what we have to offer,” Sbarge says of the Axle project.

There are projects by Amy Biehl High School students who worked with Amber Cobb. Citylab designed installations with Alf Simon, Katya Crawford and Susan Frye, while students from Central New Mexico Community College worked with Larry Bob Phillips on the exhibit “Sign of the Times.”

Diahndra Grill and Carlos Contreras created JustWrite, which is presenting “Upon Release.” The project features letters from inmate authors at the Albuquerque Metropolitan Detention Center. There also are projects done by the University of New Mexico International Collaborative Art Program, UNM Advance Sculpture, Vecinos Artist Collective and Working Classroom.

“Each one of the projects is so important to the mission of ‘Heart of the City,'” Sbarge says. “We aimed really high with what we wanted to create and I think it’s coming together really well.”

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