Albuquerque Street Art

Street Arts in Albuquerque

For all of October and November, STREET ARTS: A Celebration of Hip Hop Culture and Free Expression, has made Albuquerque the urban epicenter of New Mexico. It is an enormous and impressive collaborative undertaking, headed up by Suzanne Sbarge, Project Director and Executive Director of 516 Arts, which includes, but is not limited to Downtown mural tours, a Hip Hop Filmfest, Shout Out: Festival of Rhythm and Rhyme, various panel discussions and Street Text: Art from the Coasts & the Populist Phenomenon (see full schedule here).

So why STREET ARTS in Albuquerque? To explain, co-curator of Street Text Andrew Connors cites iconic West Coast graffiti artist Chaz Bojòrquez. In the national street arts movement, “The East Coast took over the country,” Bojòrquez says, “and yet there are these other voices that exist in peripheral communities, but never have these voices come together in dialogue. Here, in the middle of the country, we come to neutral territory, we come to sacred space. Here we have the national monument to graffiti…the core human need of expression, the petroglyphs.” Bojòrquezs mural “New Mexico Remix”, a co-creation with text by Idris Goodwin, combines his renowned “Cholo” style graffiti with the skills of Asian calligraphy, stands front and center at the 516 gallery. But bringing the East and West Coast aesthetics together took the backing of the “unofficial archivist” of the graffiti art movement in New York, Henry Chalfant, participant in an October panel discussion. His co-authored definitive book, Subway Art (1984), along with the film “Style Wars” (1984), was the manifesto that took the art form around the world. “We wanted to make people more aware of regional traditions,” Connors explains in reference to Art from the Coasts and the Populist Phenomenon. “In this era of quick communication, we wanted to show that there used to pockets of unique creation – vestidual remains of earlier aesthetics.”

In an effort to proliferate an Albuquerque aesthetic, the series of eight new street murals Downtown has brought high quality public art to once derelict spaces, Connors says, and raised awareness as to the quality of works that are already here. It is a consummate example of how art can be used as an agent of urban renewal and a beginning dialogue between diverse constituents. It was an opportunity for business leaders, property owners to be speaking with and engaging with artists as equals. Many of the downtown businesses are “giddy with enthusiasm” as to what these paintings have done for their buildings.

Idris Goodwin, co-curator of and performer in Shout Out, tells us the job well done of any artist or poet is to tell your stories, a repeated experience during both Friday and Saturdays performances. Amalia Ortiz spoke of the missing women of Juarez, whose profile so eerily fits her own, and how “the desert keeps its secrets.” And Chicagoan Kevin Coval, Jewish cat who confessed, “Hip hop is responsible for everything I do thats good.” Locals Carlos Contreras, Sina Soul and Tanaya Winders diverse poetic voices made you miss your grandma, feel the loneliness of being the only person of color in a university classroom and become a “son of the sun”, offspring of “Burque, that crazy lady, loca girl.” In the coup de grace of free expression, the master of pithy irreverence, Amiri Baraka exemplified this derision in a character he created called Lord Haha, who says, “We were here before god, we invented him. Why? Thats a good goddamned question.” Heed Barakas advice: “Craziness is not an act, to not act is craziness” and make this your mantra – express, create, liberate.

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