Bernalillo County Public Art Program Adds Sense of Community

“Silverado Skies” is located in Bernalillo County @ Alvarado Square, 415 Silver SW. (Courtesy of Bernalillo County Public Art Program)

Editor’s note:

On the fourth Sunday of every month, Journal Arts editor Adrian Gomez tells the stories behind some of the hidden gems you can see across the state in “Gimme Five.”

In 1992, the Bernalillo County Public Art Program was established.

The intent of the program is to promote and encourage public awareness of artistic and cultural assets and to incorporate art into Bernalillo County facilities and structures.

Thirty years have passed and the program has over 500 works of art – a number that continues to grow.

Kent Swanson is the public art project coordinator for the county. When it comes to knowing the many artworks in the program, he is definitely in the know.

Swanson took the opportunity to select five of the county’s newest public artworks, which are funded by 1% of the county’s general bond that is passed in general elections every two years.

Because the coins are purchased with the bonds, each coin must be on public and permanent display.

Swanson says each piece of public art energizes public spaces, as well as inspires thoughts and conversations.

Here are five of the newest coins located in the county.

  1. Silverado Sky
“Silverado Skies” is located in Bernalillo County @ Alvarado Square, 415 Silver SW. (Courtesy of Bernalillo County Public Art Program)

Swanson says hundreds of citizens from all five districts came together to create the project.

The glass art mosaic is designed by artist Gail Christofferson. It is located in Bernalillo County @ Alvarado Square at 415 Silver SW.

Swanson says that in the spring, nine 4-foot-by-8-foot framed glass mosaic panels were installed in the new Bernalillo County headquarters. Those interested can find more information at animalhouseglass.com/portfolio/bernalillocounty newmexico

2. South Valley Pool Mosaic

The South Valley Pool and Splash Pad Mosaic is located at 3912 Isleta Blvd. SW. (Courtesy of Bernalillo County Public Art Program)

Swanson says a new mosaic will soon be available in the South Valley Pool and Splash Pad located at 3912 Isleta Blvd. SW.

Local artist Joel Davis is the mastermind behind the project, which will feature animals from the Rio Grande bosque, scenes from the Albuquerque mesas and the beautiful skies of New Mexico.

Davis grew up in the South Valley attending Adobe Acres Elementary, Harrison Middle School, and Rio Grande High School.

Swanson says Davis’ mosaic technique is unusual because he cuts shapes out of thick porcelain or stone and often includes art-deco/folk nouveau elements in his art.

“In this project, Joel worked with students from nearby schools to teach them mosaic art (design) and to share his love of the South Valley,” says Swanson.

The piece is expected to be completed on December 1.

• • •

The next three pieces are all located at the Sculpture Gallery in Alvarado Square.

Swanson says this year, the Bernalillo County Public Art Program installed a new sculpture gallery on the second-floor Bernalillo County Walkway @ Alvarado Square, Bernalillo County’s flagship government building located at 415 Silver Ave. SW.

“With skylights and a wall of west-facing windows running the length of the hallway, the skybridge provides a beautiful space for new sculptures,” says Swanson.

Here are some of the highlights among the eight new sculptures installed in the gallery:

3. “Tesuque Garden” Woodcarving by John Barnett in Aspen

John Barnett’s “Tesuque Garden” is located in the Alvarado Square Sculpture Gallery at 415 Silver Ave. SW. (Courtesy of Bernalillo County Public Art Program)

Swanson says John Barnett is an Albuquerque-based artist working in woodcarving.

“His intricate and delicate works capture the essence of New Mexico’s cultures and beautiful landscapes,” he says. ”

4. “Sine Waves” by Ema Tanigaki

Sinusoidal Waves” by Ema Tanigaki is installed at the Alvarado Square Sculpture Gallery at 415 Silver Ave. SW. (Courtesy of Bernalillo County Public Art Program)

Swanson says Ema Tanigaki was born in Kanazawa, Japan, and works in a variety of media, including jewelry, sculpture, and large-scale public art.

“Ema’s work recently won third place in the Lewton-Brain Foldform Competition, an organization that celebrates unique and innovative techniques in metalworking,” he says.

5. “Serenity” by Estella Loretto

“Serenity” by Estella Loretto was installed in 2022 at the Alvarado Square Sculpture Gallery at 415 Silver Ave. SW. (Courtesy of Bernalillo County Public Art Program)

Swanson says Estella Loretto is currently the only Native American woman working in monumental bronze sculpture and is recognized internationally as one of the finest sculptors living today.

“Estella was commissioned by Bishop Michael J. Sheehan to create a monumental bronze statue of Saint Kateri, which has greeted visitors at the entrance to St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe since 2003,” he says.

Meanwhile, Loretto says of “Serenity,” “It’s an original piece I did during COVID times. It was a tough and very difficult time of sunstroke for me, so creating something very peaceful and serene was my goal. She has her medicine bag in one hand, and the other hand nods and lets go.

Kayleen C. Rice