Alibi V.28 No.45 • Nov 7-13, 2019

Arts Interview

The South Valley Studio Tour 2019

An Interview with South Valley Artist John Gallegos

John Gallegos
South Valley artist John Gallegos
photo by Clarke Condé
Albuquerque’s South Valley is never going to be Santa Fe. It’s a good thing, too, because what makes the South Valley such a great place to be an artist is not the trappings of an insular commercial art scene, but rather the river, the cottonwoods and serene quiet, broken only occasionally by people gunning their pickups, fighting their dogs or firing their guns in the air to celebrate a holiday. Make no mistake, the South Valley has not been tamed. It is still a bit of the Wild West and the artists who live and work there like it that way.

The South Valley Studio Tour is an ad hoc group of South Valley artists who got together three years ago to invite people into their homes and studios. What is unique about the tour is how laid-back it is, which is in keeping with the character of this place. It is one part self-guided studio visits, and one part performances with a block party style BYOB potluck that is open to all. Mitch Berg, host of the Performance Showcase, says, “We are keeping it homegrown. Posole, beans and tortillas.” There is no finer way to dive into into the art community of the South Valley.

John Gallegos is a South Valley artist and one of the organizers of this year’s South Valley Studio Tour. Weekly Alibi sat down with Gallegos to talk about this year’s event, making art in the South Valley and the red balloons that mark each of the artists’ homes on the tour. The following is an edited version of that conversation.

Weekly Alibi: This is the third year of the South Valley Studio Tour. What's different this year?

John Gallegos: I don't know if there's really anything all that much different from the first two years. I mean, we're still kind of new. I think we're too new to be different right now. The first year was pretty much an ad hoc gathering of people as I understand it. I wasn't involved in the first year. The second year, last year, I helped organize and get it together. We really enjoyed having people come into our homes and into our studios. We really enjoyed that part of it.

There will be 20 artists this year?

You're correct. Twenty. We always have people either adding in or dropping out. So, it's always hard to get a real number and almost until the last minute.

Are the performances new this year?

Yes. This was something that Mitch Berg, who runs Fuego Studio, decided to have. We're very much still a grassroot, ad hoc kind of group. This year as we were organizing ourselves, Mitch decided to see what would happen if we tried to have performances this year.

What are the performances?

We got some poets coming in, and I believe we have a couple band members from Felix Y Los Gatos. We might have some dancers. For sure we've got some poetry, spoken word and some band performances.

How many people did you have last year? How many do you expect this year?

That's kind of an interesting thing. The studio tour itself runs pretty much from north Central [Avenue] all the way down to Isleta Pueblo so it's a big area to cover. Some people didn't get maybe as many people at one studio as other people did. I was busy all day. It's really hard to put a number on it and nobody really counted. Like I said, we're still a very new organization. We're not really trying to grab analytics or anything just yet. We're just trying to enjoy having our art exhibited and shown to other people.

Is there something unique about the South Valley as a place to make art? Do you see commonalities within the work of these 20 artists?

[Long, thoughtful pause] I would say no. I'm going to be honest about that. I think what draws us to the South Valley is really just the location, just being by the river, being by the cottonwoods. It's an established neighborhood. It's got a lot of history to it. It's primarily Hispanic and it's just something that Albuquerque isn't. There's not really a lot of money. There's really not a lot of development. Sure. You have stuff off Coors [Boulevard] and things like that, but for the most part, the enclave of the South Valley where a lot of people live as artists, I think we moved there really just because of the location, the quiet and just the peace the South Valley offers us.

Look for the red balloons?

Always look for the red balloons.

South Valley Studio Tour & Performance Showcase

Sunday, November 10

Art Studio Visits
: Noon to 5pm; See map for locations.

Artists Include: Alex Athens, Ali Baudoin, Mitch Berg, Robert Brettelle, Matthew Cohen, Erin Elder, Nina Elder, John Gallegos, LaVerne Harper, Hilary Heyl, Aryon Hopkins, Alicia Lueras Maldonado, Bill Mohr, Julie Reichert, Suzanne Sbarge, Only Tantum, Cat Tsosie, Harriette Tsosie, Peter Voshefski and Penelope Young.

Performance Showcase
: 6pm to 9pm; Hosted by Mitch Berg at 749 La Vega Dr. SW

Performers Include:
James Aranda (poetry), Priscilla Candeleria (poetry), Círculo Solar Ollin Xochipilli (Aztec dance), Dos Gatos from Felix y los Gatos (Zyde-Tejano Blues), Los de Afuera (Rhythm & Blues) and Alicia Lueras Maldonado (performance art).