A Kaleidoscope of Colors and Community: My Adventure with a Community-Driven Mural in Albuquerque NM
Hey, art enthusiasts and mural lovers! Tonight I want to share an incredible journey that filled my heart and my paintbrush with pure joy and creativity. I want to tell you a story about how Spring 2023 found me joyfully playing in a world of vibrant colors, community spirit, and artful collaboration.
Albuquerque, New Mexico – a place where the sun kisses the desert landscape, and the spirit of art dances in the air, and when I'm building art on the streets here, I feel lucky to call this place home. It's here that I had the privilege to work on a community-driven mural that captured the essence of the International District, a hub of diversity, culture, and resilience. And guess what? The finished masterpiece not only stole my heart and wove more forever friends into the tapestry of my life, but also earned a shout out in The Albuquerque Journal, shining in its place among five public art works that deeply resonate with the heart and soul of the city. Elsa Menendez, deputy director of the City of Albuquerque Arts & Culture Department, says this of the mural: "I love what this mural represents – a community process with youth leadership reflecting on their perspectives and vision of present and future,"
Now, let's rewind a bit and dig into the details of how this inspiring and transformative mural came to life. It all started with a passionate community, bound by a shared goal – making a difference and keeping their neighborhood safe. A stellar team of community organizers, activists, and artists came together as a force of creative energy and unrelenting passion. The phase one team spent years planning, canvassing, and soaking up the spirit of the neighborhood to understand what this mural should truly represent.
And boy, did it represent! The community's spirit radiated from every brushstroke. Their designs and silhouettes danced across the mural, telling stories of perseverance, unity, roots, and hope. As we painted side by side, shared meals, and listened intently to each other's voices, something magical happened – we formed a bond that transcended mere paint on a wall. We became a family, united by our love for art, genuine connection, and unyielding spirit.
The individuals that make up the community were the backbone and boots on the ground for this heartfelt mural, and it emerged through the incredible support and partnership of organizations, public offices, and businesses who shared the vision. Vision Zero, an initiative committed to eradicating traffic-related pedestrian deaths, played a vital role in making this dream a reality. Artful Life, an organization dedicated to harnessing the transformative power of art, lent their expertise and unwavering support, their youth team was relentless and radically talented. Expo New Mexico, guardian of the magical State Fairgrounds, provided the Eastern facing wall for our masterpiece, ensuring that it will grace the hearts and minds of passersby for years to come. You can learn more about the mural, see a video showing the entirety of its winding walk down Louisiana, and see more of the behind the scenes efforts at the Artful Life website, featuring Vision Zero.
The City of Albuquerque Department of Arts and Culture worked on a local and state level to support every phase of the project, including planning for its future. They navigated the twists and turns of not only the regular day-to-day challenges of public art creation and preservation, but also the stormy clouds of a global pandemic which pushed the mural's anticipated start and delivery date several times. Lead Artist Andrew Fearnside did not lose hope or give up on the seeds of this project coming into full bloom, and as March blew in like most New Mexico springs do, the project began to break through into vibrant color. There could not have been a more fitting season to see the perseverance and patience pay off. Andrew's Facebook page bears a simple and foundational about: "Murals embedded in community relationships." He is right, the whole point of this work was to be in and among the community welcoming us. It was a place to lay ego aside, pick up a brush, and listen.
When we come full circle, the heart of this community is where the magic truly lies – in the local high school students, young artists and leaders in their community, bringing their incredible creative energy to the mix. They worked hand-in-hand with Andrew to design motifs within the mural and discuss the social impacts of art and the realities of the needs in our city. And when the time finally came to bring those visions to life, many of these students returned, now as graduates, entrepreneurs, and young adults. They arrived in their precious breaks from careers and classes, on their days off and whenever they could, to work on the team who would bring the fruit of all this community grown love, from paper to wall – a testament to the lasting impact of art on their lives. And they have each left a lasting impact on mine.
Oh, and speaking of impact, I cannot ever forget the amazing individuals in the community who walk by this mural every day. They eagerly embraced the opportunity to paint with us, to have their silhouettes immortalized on the moments in time of this sidewalk and city, and to become an inseparable part of this colorful narrative. From the bus stop it includes to every passerby who takes a moment to pause and reflect, this mural has become more than just paint on a wall, it's an autograph book of the people it was dreamed up by and painted for.
So there you have it, my fellow art enthusiasts – a tale of paint-splattered skies, a community united, and the healing power of art. This mural reminds us that when we come together, when we listen to each other's stories, and when we let creativity guide us, we can turn the darkest corners into vibrant canvases of hope and connection. Let it be a testament to the transformative power of art, shining as a beacon of inspiration for generations to come.
Now go grab your paintbrush, let your imagination run wild, and above all, embrace the joy of creation as you embark on your very own artistic adventure. May your artistry be a catalyst for healing, growth, and self-discovery. And whenever you can, allow art to tie you to the humans around you, with room in your heart for nothing but love, compassion, connection, and play. Remember, my dear art warriors, the world is your canvas – so go out there and make it a masterpiece!
With love and vibrant colors,
Learn more about the art of Andrew Fearnside at his website here, on Instagram here, or on Facebook, linked above. If you are looking for a muralist in Albuquerque NM or the surrounding areas, Andrew and I frequently work together with a group of muralists who bring a collectively staggering amount of experience, heart, and joy to the wall. You can contact Andrew at the links above, or myself at the Murals page on this site, to learn more about how to see YOUR visions come to life next!