Albuquerque's Public Art Program Beautifies the City

KiMo Theater
Aileen O'Catherine

Albuquerque has benefitted from having a special Public Art Program that is funded by the Art in Municipal Place Ordinance. The city sets aside 1 percent of city construction funds that come from the general obligation bond program, and from specific revenue bonds that are used to purchase art.

The Public Art Program began in 1978, and since then, public art pieces have been added around the city, helping to elevate the atmosphere and put it on the map as a center for the arts. The 1 percent arts initiative was one of the first in the country. In 1982, the Bernalillo County Commission adopted a similar program so it could provide public art in the unincorporated parts of the county.  

The public art is often outdoors, in the form of sculptures, wall murals, mosaics, and can even be found in median dividers, like the snake on south University, driving to Mesa del Sol. 

Touring the city's public art is easy, and can be done with self-guided tours and the aid of maps that will help you find your way to public art pieces in different parts of the city. Walk yourself through the downtown public art walking tour, which includes the sculpture Sidewalk Society by famous sculptor Glenna Goodacre at 3rd and Tijeras. The sculpture depicts a group of people "walking" through the area. At Civic Plaza, see the Harry Kinney Memorial, which depicts Kinney, Albuquerque's great public servant and two term mayor.

The Holocaust Memorial is also found on Civic Plaza

Take the "Valley Girls" tour of a dozen public artworks, all created by women, that can be found through the south, central and north valley in Albuquerque.

Local art enthusiasts Don and Pamela Michaelis have created bicycle tours that combine their two passions of art and cycling. Their designated tours combine some art pieces that aren't designated as public art, but the tour provides a great look at some of the city's beautiful art pieces. Consider using a bike share bicycle so you don't have to worry about bringing your own on your car. A special family friendly bike tour will take you to places like Explora, Albuquerque Museum, and Tiguex Park, and Civic Plaza, an easy ride with little in the way of grades.

The city has a Flickr site where you can explore the city's art by quadrant, or by map. In addition to art found outdoors, there is also art in public buildings. View the paintings and drawings at the Albuquerque Convention Center, in libraries, and in other public spaces, such as the KiMo Theatre and the South Broadway Cultural Center. 

Public Art kids will enjoy:

  • Albertosaurus and Pentaceratops statues outside the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science at 1801 Mountain Road NW
  • Vehicle Stop is a whimsical shelter made of recycled car parts and is found on the north side of the Explora Science Center at 1701 Mountain NW
  • KiMo the Cat is a human-sized cat sculpture seated on a bench at the Eastside Animal Shelter at 8920 Lomas NE
  • Kick Flip Sequence is a series of colorful Lego-style sculpture that shows a kick flip sequence of skateboarding. See it at the NW Quadrant Skate Park at Seven Bar Loop and Coors Bypass
  • Cruising San Mateo, which is otherwise known locally as Chevy on a Stick, depicts a car atop an inverted U base, and can be seen at the corner of San Mateo and Gibson
  • Gorilla Route 66 is a gorilla sculpture made from old tires and can be seen at the Department of Solid Waste building at 4600 Edith NE
  • Alphabet Soup depicts spelling letters and is a popular sculpture of kids of all ages. It can be found at the Erna Fergusson Library at 3700 San Mateo NE
  • Throne of Nyoka is at the Africa area of the Rio Grande Zoo, and was made with over 30,000 marbles. It's a favorite spot for kid portraits
  • Olympic Wannabees (Glenna Goodacre) depicts cartwheeling, playing children at the corner of 4th and Alameda

Find out more about the city's public arts program.