This Is Albuquerque: City Of Albuquerque Public Art Urban Enhancement Program

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What is your business philosophy?

The mission of the Albuquerque Public Art Program is to "Enhance our community through exceptional public art by embracing a transparent process that reflects the diversity and interests of Albuquerque.” Thanks to the 38 year old 1% for Art law, we manage the funds and process of acquiring art throughout the entire city at places like libraries, parks, pools, on bike trails and at the BioPark. Because of our public process, we collect all kinds of art for the city from large scale outdoor sculptures to delicate etchings displayed indoors. With nearly 850 public artworks in the collection, we have something for everyone’s taste.

What is your educational background?

Each of the four staff members all have degrees in art, art history, design and lots of public administration experience. We’re all also artists, or have been in the past, each working in various disciplines such as painting, glass, printmaking, illustration and contemporary dance. We’ve also held various teaching positions.

What is your or your company’s greatest asset?

We have two of the greatest assets — the public and the art collection!

The citizens of, and visitors to, Albuquerque that all love and support the arts and let us and our elected officials know how much they enjoy it is why we exist. But the output of our program is nearly 850 individual works of art that are located all over town for the public to enjoy for free. The biggest asset, however are those people who volunteer to serve on the art selection committees and make the decision about what the city buys for public art. Without those volunteers we couldn’t do our jobs.

What are your strongest business traits?

We have several: 1) We don’t have to be competitive. We actively encourage artists, organizations and property owners to place their own art in and around places where the public can enjoy it – the more the merrier! 2) We have designated funds for maintenance. We are nationally recognized as a leader in the public art field by having good policies and procedures and a special fund just to take care of the artworks, so if somebody sees something that should be fix, please call 311. 3) We’re players in the "national league." Sometimes the public doesn’t understand why we purchase or commission art from artists who live elsewhere, but those artworks also contribute to our city’s overall image by showing that were a great arts city. Opening up our borders once in a while to artists from other states allows our New Mexico artists to be awarded arts commissions from other places as well. Interstate commerce is a good thing, even for a locally based public art program.

What motivates you to succeed besides the desire to make money?

As a government agency that helps fund the arts in our community, we do not a have a mandate to make money and, for that reason, we also try to never compete with other arts organizations for local grants. We are motivated to work to bring outside dollars to our economy by applying for national grants that only local governments can apply for – we do not want to have a competitive effect on our own local cultural producers. Also, because it is our mandate that we spend funds on art that enhances our city, well placed works of public art that have been selected by the public is our measure of success.

What significant changes have you implemented recently?

After nearly 38 years as a city program, Mayor Berry and City Council adopted an amendment to the 1% for Art Ordinance that allows for true public/private partnerships in the form of public art on "orphan signs" (signs that have been vacated but are still standing) and murals on private walls that have public visual access. We are pleased that in 2016 we will roll out about 6 murals in partnership with private property owners and two more orphan signs.

What is it about the city’s Public Art that says, "This is Albuquerque"?

We have heard over the years on many, many occasions that the public art in Albuquerque has two unique features—there’s lots of it and it doesn’t look like public art in other places. The Public Art Collection is very diverse, incredibly approachable, located all over the city and responds to our particular environment. Residents, and travelers often comment on how much art they get to enjoy. Visitors have actually taken the time to send an email or letter noting how much they enjoyed all of the art in our city. We think Albuquerque’s Public Art is part of our city’s image and identity and thankfully seven mayors over 38 years have agreed, and we are all very appreciative for that!
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