ABQ searches for signature public art

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — Public art has become a big part of Albuquerque with more than 800 pieces of taxpayer funded art decorating sites throughout the metro area.

But the city has now launched a search for that one special work of art that can become Albuquerque’s defining icon.

Albuquerque’s Public Art program is now hoping to spend nearly a million dollars to build some signature art downtown. Art that the city is hoping will be a major draw on a national scale.

Seattle has the Fremont Troll. Denver has what many affectionately call the Big Blue Bear, and Chicago has its giant silver bean. They’re all iconic pieces of public art and now Albuquerque wants a piece of that national recognition.

“Put us on the map,” said Mayor R.J. Berry in a Friday afternoon meeting about the artwork.

Starting by brainstorming with people in their 20s and 30s, leaders of Albuquerque’s Public Art program spent Friday looking for ideas to build big, expensive, signature public art right in the heart of the city.

“Assuming it’s going to be big, what do you want it to be?” said Sherri Brueggemann, program manager for the city’s Public Art Program. “Help us answer those questions,”

The city is now moving forward with creating at least three different public art projects in the downtown core. Right now, they’re aiming to spend about $300,000 on each piece.

While more than 800 pieces of art worth at least $14 million are already in Albuquerque, city officials they want the city to get a defining role in the national art dialogue.

“As long as I’ve been in the arts in Albuquerque, people have said what’s that one sculpture that says Albuquerque? That’s our opportunity here to get it,” said Brueggemann.

One of the locations the city is considering is either at or near the fountain at Civic Plaza. The city is also considering putting the art pieces near the newly proposed Entertainment District at 1st Street and Central Avenue and the proposed Innovate ABQ complex near Broadway and Central.

During Friday’s discussion, the city’s focus group weighed in on what type of art they want to see. Many people remarked that they wanted to see something more interactive.

“I’m really open to a lot of variety,” said Laurie Firor of Albuquerque.

“More murals I think are great,” said Alex Curtas of Albuquerque.

“I think seeing something like digital and something that really kind of embraces technology would be kind of amazing,” said Tim Trujillo of Albuquerque.

While the city’s art investments haven’t always pleased everyone many have big hopes this time around.

“It’s great I think it’s a huge marketing piece and say look, we’re embracing downtown re-development and we’re embracing art,” said Trujillo.

The city will craft a “request for proposals” with all the feedback. The plan is to open that up to artists nationwide. There’s no timeline yet on when the art will go up.

The city says the downtown projects won’t take all of the money set aside for public art. They’re planning to roll out 15 other new public art pieces outside of downtown in the next few years.

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