Affectionately known as the “Cinderella” to Santa Fe, our more renowned sister city to the North, Albuquerque gets the “step sister” treatment with respect to recognition of our arts scene. Santa Fe is mentioned across the globe in the same company as cities such as Milan, New York and Paris, for its fashion, jewelry and aesthetic. All Albuquerque gets recognized for is Bugs Bunny (You know, where he made that wrong left turn and ended up lost...Albuquerque). However, the Duke City (Albuquerque’s nickname) has long been the blue collar artistic foil to Santa Fe’s white collar arts scene. And as those who pledge allegiance to the NYC and LA can attest (the cultural North and South, or more appropriately East and West, poles of the art world), there is nothing more blue collar than Hip Hop.
Whether you are talking about the impoverished and truly working class folks who birthed Hip Hop or the broad and predominately lower-middle class constituency of contemporary Hip Hop creators and consumer, it is certainly more for the street than for the gallery. With no shortage of gallery square footage but plenty shortage of things to do for teens and young adults, you can see the conditions of inspiration, imbalance and inequality that are always a recipe for an explosion of Hip Hop culture. Add to that, the bubbling underground Hip Hop scene that has been simmering like the thermal hot springs in the Jemez Mountains and one can easily see why STREET ARTS: A CELEBRATION OF HIP HOP CULTURE AND FREE EXPRESSION was a dish Albuquerque had to serve up first. Water boils faster at higher altitudes and since Albuquerque is a mile high, you would expect us to cook everything from ideas to tortillas faster than New York or LA.
KOB-TV, the NBC-affiliate here in ‘Burque, reported the following from the Los Angeles Times:
“The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Arts announced its plan for a 2011 street arts exhibit. “It’s going to be the first major museum survey of the history of graffiti and street art presented in the United States” (Read full article here)
The first mural of the Albuquerque STREET ARTS Exhibit went up October 1st, 2010. The opening reception for the two- month, city-wide installation was held on October 2nd, two weeks after the LA Times published their announcement and a full seven months before their exhibit is scheduled to open.
No, Albuquerque did not invent Hip Hop, but it has certainly taken the Krylon can and run with it. STREET ARTS centers around a two-part exhibition at 516 ARTS titled Street Text: Art from the Coasts & The Populist Phenomenon, which examines Street Art and its evolution into an international cultural movement. The project celebrates art in the urban environment and explores issues of freedom and expression. It includes an exciting line-up of related exhibitions, new Downtown murals, music, dance, talks, Street Arts tours, a Hip Hop Film Festival and a Spoken Word Festival titled SHOUT-OUT: A Festival of Rhythm & Rhyme. Get the full STREET ARTS line-up here.
The Power of Prayer, Stevan Gutierrez 2010
Still “showing love” to the East and West Coast pioneers and visionaries of the Hip Hop practice that we consider a ritual in the Southwest (even though the LA Times over looked us in their search for rival exhibits), the accomplished class of artist that comprise this exhibit come from across the country and the globe. Hip Hop cinema pioneer, Henry Chalfant from New York (Style Wars) and graffiti legend Chaz Bojorquez from Los Angeles were both part of this exhibit and led discussions on the history of their art to packed audiences. Black Arts Movement pioneer Amiri Baraka and Free Jazz great Cecil Taylor were part of a keynote collaboration that included Bojoroquez and Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam alumnus and “Break Beat Poet”, Idris Goodwin from Chicago. The A-list of artists included local and national talent from across all elements of Hip Hop: Lady Pink, Gajin Fujita, John Lorne, Shepard Fairey, Gaia, Mark Jenkins, Alexandre Orion, Chris Stain, Slinkachu, SWOON, Chip Thomas, Kevin Coval, Amalia Ortiz, Jonathan Khumbulani Nkala, Danfis Prieto, Kokayi, Molodi, Say Whut?!, Jaque Fragua, Thomas Christopher Haag, Albert Rosales, Carlos Contreras, Sina Soul and Hakim Bellamy.
According to the organizers, “Many of the programs and events for the STREET ARTS celebration focus on educating young people about their civil liberties. This project helps connect New Mexico artists, performers and audience with a larger dialogue that is happening around the globe.” This idea reinforces the value that New Mexican artists place on an uncompromising dedication to community engagement, youth development and social change. Since we always seem to end up with more lime in our beer than limelight, many “urban arts entrepreneurs” here in Albuquerque cannot sustain themselves entirely on their art, so we subsidize our budgets and our souls by bringing Hip Hop to the schools, community and detention centers in our very poor state. Yet we still find time to perform, tour, create and exhibit, whether the world is watching or not. Even with the oldest capital city in the nation, New Mexico often goes overlooked even though we do A LOT of things first. Ask anyone who has been here, including the renowned artists that were part of the STREET ARTS Exhibit, and they will tell you that it is only forgettable to folks who have never been. So come see why you can’t spell swagger without the SW and we’ll show you another world of Hip Hop.