Making Art on the Blacksmith’s Forge
“Artists are always ready. We have art in our closets, under our beds—we’re ready.” According to Priscilla Garcia, the ebullient director of the Arts Committee for the Rail Yards Market, focus on culture and space for artisans was always at the heart of the proposal to redevelop the historic Barelas landmark. “We’re trying to bring in as much culture as we can.”
One of only four facilities of their kind, the historic Albuquerque Rail Yards (1100 Second Street SW) served the entire Southwest region until 1924. The Blacksmith Shop kept the trains running, connected the city to the larger nation and helped nurture a national fascination with the art and traditions of the Southwest.
Visitors to the newly launched market are greeted with a spectrum of cloth and color. Scents of honeyed tea and incense blend within a sea of movement dappled with light from hundreds of window panes. Where molten metal once poured into molds, tinsmiths like Jason Younis of TINtero Workshop & Gallery give live demonstrations, making stamped metal flowers and calaveras.
Dotting mottled floors once covered by sprawling engine parts, more than 70 booths house vendors, local growers and artists employing their skills in a timeless exchange. Although divided into five distinct zones, the market places a premium on community collaboration. The traditional, sustainable living, education, pop-up and live art zones are headed by individual committees, but “all of these zones are so trans-disciplinary ... we’re working a lot with each other,” says Shavone Otero, head of the Traditional Zone Committee.
Similarly, the majority of artisans and vendors fall within multiple categories. Many local growers in sustainable living also depend on traditional growing practices. Neighboring them, curanderas practice their traditional healing art. “That is our culture ... it comes from the earth,” says Judy Gallegos, who joined the Rail Yards organizing committee “to be part of the redevelopment, honoring the neighborhood and culture of Barelas.”
The result is a carnival-like atmosphere. In a swirl of mixed media, visitors move from pop-up galleries to booths like Ana Romero-Sanchez’, featuring decorative art handcrafted from wood found along the Bosque. Visual artists like Ilene Weiss and Kim Loo discuss the bold strokes and color palettes of their paintings while contact jugglers dance crystal balls along their elbows. Poetry and music echo from stages at opposite ends of the market—including weekly performances by the Unidos youth poetry slam team preparing for their appearance at Brave New Voices in July. Vendors perform gastric alchemy, turning locally grown food into regional delicacies while children learn to make African drums and hula hoops. Local bibliophiles from Community Publishing and Swimming with Elephants Publications offer collections of children’s stories and poetry.
This free market atmosphere forges a powerful synergistic energy. “There’s no sense of competition. Everyone just wants other artists to be here,” exclaims Romero-Sanchez. “People want to collaborate. I’ve spoken to different artists who want to do something together, and that’s really exciting.”
A 10-year project for the city, the market is now open 9am to 3pm every Sunday until Nov. 2.