Alibi V.24 No.1 • Jan 1-7, 2015 

Year in Review

Sunday Best

2014 saw the Rail Yards Market begin a sea change in ABQ arts, but can it endure?

Light shines through the windows at Rail Yards Market.
Light shines through the windows at Rail Yards Market.
Michael Smailliw

A couple of weeks ago, I was strolling the Holiday Market at the Rail Yards. Shoppers milled with upbeat steps—almost dancing—as the bell-bright tones of Polyphony Marimba filled the cold, sunlit space. I’d passed the Irrational Pie food truck outside, a cardboard geodesic dome, the book stall and a table full of hand-carved birdhouses without incident when some lady hula hooped right into me. I was startled, she was embarrassed. It was just one of those things. Then she apologized and I apologized and we both laughed and went on our merry marimba-dancing ways.

That should tell you something about this place.

RYM has brought in over $400,000 in local business revenues, provided an outlet for the work of over 730 vendors, artists, educators and musicians, and racked up more than 16,000 volunteer hours. And public devotion to the project only appears to be growing.

When the Rail Yards Market (RYM) opened May 4, enthusiastic Burqueños of every stripe began making Barelas their Sunday pilgrimage destination. The 2014 market ran until Nov. 2, with a bonus holiday appearance in December. The numbers alone are impressive. According to organizers, RYM has brought in over $400,000 in local business revenues, provided an outlet for the work of over 730 vendors, artists, educators and musicians, and racked up more than 16,000 volunteer hours. And public devotion to the project only appears to be growing.

Having served as many as 5,000 patrons each week, RYM tangibly demonstrates that Albuquerque can gather a vibrant community centered on arts, crafts, edibles, performances and joyous participation on a consistent basis. And it was so much fun. Lovers of watermelon radishes, locally published poetry, hardwood maple salad bowls, seed murals constructed by kidlets, crocheted narwhals, blood-orange sorbet, pop-up galleries, contact jugglers and tinwork demonstrations all found something to make, do, buy or discuss at the gorgeously revamped Blacksmith Shop. Packed aisles boasted everyone from hipster families to eccentric old-timers. Music suffused the air, interspersed with poetry performances and public discussions. Kids ran around sporting animal face paint.

Citing increased rental costs, bureaucratic hurdles and general stonewalling as challenges throughout 2014, they’re most concerned that city officials want to scale back the market to two Sundays a month in the upcoming year.

All of which makes RYM one of the very best things to happen to Albuquerque this past year.

The market is slated to return in 2015. But will it be able to maintain its momentum? Organizers recently posted a message to the Rail Yards Market ABQ Facebook page expressing dismay and asking for the public’s help. Citing increased rental costs, bureaucratic hurdles and general stonewalling as challenges throughout 2014, they’re most concerned that city officials want to scale back the market to two Sundays a month in the upcoming year. While that would open up the space to all-weekend events hosted by other organizations, it has the potential to disrupt the regular flow of market attendees, severely watering down the triumphant communal tidal wave of 2014.

Negotiations continue, and the Rail Yards Advisory Board, established by the city to represent various interests, including RYM’s, is slated to meet on Jan. 6. In the meantime, RYM organizers urge anyone who loved the market to reach out to Mayor Berry and the City Council and tell them how precious, how necessary RYM has been.