It's mainly been a pretty good year for the awwwwwts here in Albuquerque. Yes, there have been a few tragedies. Magnífico gave up its swanky contemporary art space at 516 Central SW a couple months ago. Yeah, that sucked. It also sucked that the Walls Gallery, right next to the Artichoke Café, closed down and that Jon McConville, the long-time, highly innovative Downtown art activist, had to leave town suddenly to deal with a family situation in Idaho.
Other than that, though, we've had an encouraging string of pleasant news. McConville's Downtown Fort Studios has been taken over by his former assistant, Joshua Franco. By all accounts, Franco is a highly ambitious, hard-working and effective director. He changed the name to the Downtown Contemporary Art Center (105 Fourth Street SW) and has kept McConville's vision alive by making it one of the most exciting contemporary art venues in the state.
In other news, the Albuquerque Museum (2000 Mountain Road NW, 243-7255) is in the middle of a dramatic new multi-million dollar facelift. The expansion will add a whopping 40,000 square feet of space to what is already our city's largest museum, giving administrators greater flexibility in putting on future exhibits. (The museum is still open during this renovation. It's currently hosting an expansive show of New Mexican art from its permanent collection.)
Then, finally, the biggest cause for art pride this year has to be the somewhat amazing theater boom we've experienced in the last 12 months. During my five years at the Alibi, Albuquerque, especially considering its size, has been a very active theater town. Several theaters, like the North Valley's Adobe Theater, the University area's Vortex Theatre and Old Town's venerable Albuquerque Little Theater have been putting on high quality local productions for decades. Relative newcomers like the Tricklock Performance Space, the Cell Theatre and Out ch'Yonda have earned their places of honor in the city's ever evolving theater scene. Of course, I haven't even mentioned the many fine productions staged every year at the various theaters contained within UNM's lovely Center for the Arts complex.
This year, several additional promising venues have been added to the list. SolArts (712 Central SE, 244-0049) located along Central just west of I-25, practically within walking distance of Downtown, is a hip new joint with a fantastic versatile performance space and a contemporary art gallery in the lobby. This summer, Gorilla Tango (519 Central NW, 245-8600) put together a swanky comedy improv theater square in the middle of Downtown's entertainment district. The lavishly decorated Q-Staff Theatre (4819 Central NE, 255-2182) opened a couple months ago across from the Hiland Theatre and serves as a theatrical laboratory for the experimental Q-Staff performance troupe. It's also worth noting that the Glenn Rose Playhouse (6921 Montgomery NE, 881-0503), which has been closed for years, recently reopened its doors. As the only theater in the Northeast Heights, it's a very welcome addition to the Albuquerque scene.
Last but certainly not least, the National Hispanic Cultural Center (1701 Fourth Street SW, 246-2261) has opened a jaw-dropping new theater complex that rivals the university's and, in many ways, surpasses it. The brand new Roy E. Disney Center for Performing Arts includes three immaculate high-tech theaters of varying sizes along with additional bells and whistles that will definitely make it a staple in Southwest performing arts for decades to come.
In 2004 our city boasts more great venues than it's ever had in its entire 300-year history. Pretty damn cool. Now go out and see some shows! (SRA)