By David Steinberg
Do you think of Downtown Albuquerque as the beating heart of the Duke City?
“Heart of the City” wants you to consider that question with your head and your feet. In other words, think about what you see, feel and hear at the project’s varied programs.
“Heart of the City” is the name of the three-month-long collaborative community project. It runs from Saturday, Feb. 1 through May 3.
It’s also the name of the project’s central element – an art exhibition at 516 ARTS (516 Central SW) that opens on Feb. 1.
The exhibition is bursting with diverse installations.
The project’s public opening reception – 6-8 p.m. Feb. 1 – will be at 516 ARTS with ACE Barbershop owner Gabriel Jaureguiberry giving free haircuts in the gallery. Jaureguiberry is recreating his iconic Downtown business, which offers haircuts, music and art. Billed as the installation’s lead artist, he’ll give more free haircuts in the gallery on March 7 and April 4.
Another installation in the exhibition is a collection of black-and-white photographic portraits. Axle Contemporary – artists Matthew Chase-Daniel and Jerry Wellman – took photos of people in and around Downtown during one week in January. The subjects were asked to hold an object of importance to them in the photographs. The portraits are merged to create a singular image of all who participate. All of those portraits are featured in its installation.
It’s not too late to have your picture taken. Show up at 516 ARTS between 2 and 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8 for Family Day. That’s when Axle Contemporary will take your photo. Be sure to bring an object of significance.
don’t think that “Heart of the City” is just about creating and displaying art.
Suzanne Sbarge, the project’s director and 516 ARTS’s executive director, said the project is reaching out to the larger community.
“I’m really excited about getting so many people in the community involved and really just creating dialogue about our city’s urban center. It’s something I think is very important for the future and for bringing people together around the city’s center,” Sbarge said.
That’s why the project is offering a series of public programs.
There’s a panel discussion at a public forum at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13 at 516 ARTS. Albuquerque artists, planners, community organizers and educators are taking part.
Panelists include Albuquerque poet laureate-youth organizer Hakim Bellamy; UNM associate professor Katya Crawford of CityLab (a city-UNM partnership); David Cudney of Factory on 5th; Petra Morris, the city’s liaison for railroads; Wade Miller of the Saw Mill Community Land Trust; and Gabrielle Uballez of Working Classroom and Vecinos Artist Collective. Each gives a short talk about their vision. A Q-and-A follows.
“Part of the reason we chose to do this project is that we’ve done many projects that are national and international,” Sbarge said. “And we thought it was a good time to focus on the community. Many of our exhibitions are like museum shows and are not necessarily community engagement projects. So we’re doing a lot with social practice. I’ve realized we’re working in that realm a lot as a community arts organization. Social practice means art projects focusing on community engagement and social benefits, that the arts can help communities, and not just within the art world.”
Take for example artist-activist Rick Lowe of Houston, Texas. Lowe is the keynote speaker for “Heart of the City.” His talk is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 19 at the Outpost Performance Space, 210 Yale SE.
Lowe founded Project Row Houses, a nonprofit neighborhood art-and-cultural organization that pushed to revitalize 22 abandoned shotgun-style homes.
“We love the concept of the artist working with the community to create positive social change. Rick Lowe is a real leader in that field nationally,” Sbarge said.
“Heart of the City” is acknowledging Women & Creativity Month (March) with several programs.
In one, Tricklock Company and 516 ARTS present “The Art of Being a Spectator,” a new play by Loren Kahn Puppet & Object Theatre. It will be performed at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 23 at the Tricklock Performance Lab, 110 Gold SW.
In another, Dr. Kymberly Pinder, dean of the UNM College of Fine Arts, lectures on “Graffiti, Identity and Space: Culture Jamming Inside and Outside the Gallery” at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 29 at 516 ARTS.
These are some other installations in the exhibition – sculptures by Amy Biehl High School students; historic and prehistoric place names of New Mexico that are related to a mural on the Century Downtown Theater under the guidance of lead artist Larry Bob Phillips, a Central New Mexico Community College art professor; an interactive, multimedia installation by JustWrite, inmate-authors and visual artists at the Metropolitan Detention Center working with lead artists Carlos Contreras and Diahndra Grill; paper flowers made by members of Vecinos Artist Collective with people in the community; and a portable mural displayed in the entrance to the exhibition that is created by Warehouse 508 participants with visiting artist Aaron Noble.
“‘Heart of the City’ is a great way to revisit where art is at in Downtown and how it affects the whole city. We don’t want to isolate Downtown but we want to see how it is connected to the entire city and state,” Sbarge said.
For complete information on “Heart of the City” programs go to http://www.516arts.org or call 242-1445 for a program guide.