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Albuquerque, NM

The El Puente/Barelas project (2015-2021) utilized art to strengthen community relationships and enabled residents to co-envision, co-design and co-create works of art in the Barelas neighborhood of Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Special thanks to the City of Albuquerque, Councilor Isaac Benton, and the McCune Charitable Foundation.

Project Phases


Phase One: Getting To Know You (2015-2017)

An Artful Life artist team met with a wide range of residents and neighborhood organizations to listen to their stories and perspectives about Barelas. The team met with people individually, by hosting larger gatherings (see below, and via small block parties and art dinners, engaging in dialogue while creating smaller works of art.  


Phase Two: Arts Engagement (2018-2019)

As a result of Phase One, Artful Life formed a resident artist team of adults (2018) and a resident youth team (2019) that envisioned, designed, wrote and created works of art and performance in Barelas with significant community involvement

Phase Three: Works of Public Art (2020-2021)

Works of art envisioned and created in Phase Two were presented to the community and the general public. See more details, below.

Art and Performance


"The Sunset Mix" Intersection Mural (2021) was envisioned and designed by a team of teens (working with artist Reyes Padilla), residents of the historic Barelas neighborhood of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The design emerged from outreach and engagement with the team's neighbors. The mural sits at the cross streets of 4th Street SW and Hazeldine SW and was installed by Creative Paving Solutions with help from the artist team.  It is the first intersection mural in New Mexico and, in our partnership with Vision Zero, also serves to slow down traffic and prevent pedestrian fatalities on busy 4th St. Project partners: Artful Life, residents of the historic Barelas neighborhood, Vision Zero, the City of Albuquerque, the Barelas Community Coalition, Homewise, and Creative Paving Solutions. Learn more.


The Children's Bilingual Book Festival (2019 -2021) was a partnership between Artful Life and the National Hispanic Cultural Center (NHCC, located in the historic Barelas neighborhood). This first of its kind book festival took place in-person at the NHCC in May of 2019 and online in 2020 and 2021 and celebrated K-6 books in English, Spanish and Native languages with a book fair (2019) as well as author readings, and workshops (2020-2021). Learn more.  The NHCC discontinued the Book Festival in 2022.


A Trilogy of Plays about Barelas (2019) were written by Barelas resident-playwrights Raul Garza, Leonard Madrid, and Monica Sanchez based on community storytelling workshops, playwriting workshops, and the playwrights' own stories of living in Barelas.  Project partners:  Artul Life, the residents of Barelas, National Hispanic Cultural Center, and Homewise.  


Iluminarte! 2018 & 2019 (watch videom upper right) was a unique winter holiday celebration of light and luminarias in the Barelas neighborhood. In 2018, the event was a day-long celebration of farolitos/luminarias which included an illuminated bike parade (led by StoryRiders), a show of writing and art, an art-making workshop and a historical presentation about the little paper bags with sand and candles--a New Mexico tradition. Over 300 kids and families participated in the event. In 2019, AirDance NM launched the light parade with a wonderful aerial performance on the luminaria-lit plaza at the National Hispanic Cultural Center (NHCC), followed by an illuminated ride along the Paseo del Bosque and a performance by Circo Latino inside the  famous River of Lights at the City of Albuquerque BioPark. On the ride back to the NHCC, riders (children, youth, and families on bicycles) stopped for a reading of original poems by the Story Riders (generated by poetry workshops with ABQ Poet Laureate Michelle Otero) and then, once back at the NHCC, enjoyed hot chocolate, sweets, and breakfast burritos. Over 450 children, youth and adults participates. Learn more here and here Project Partners: Artful Life, City of Albuquerque, National Hispanic Cultural Center, Story Riders, the Barelas Youth Artist Team, AirDance NM, Circo Latino, and the Albuquerque Poet Laureate Program with funding by the City of Albuquerque and the McCune Charitable Foundation.

"PoeTrees: Verses Rooted in Barelas"- 2018. Sunday, May 61-4 pm.  The 2018 Barelas Artist Team presented its spring 2018 event after 8  months of creative collaboration and neighborhood dialogue. The team adorned newly-planted trees with poems, engaged with neighbors, enjoyed paletas, and celebrated the stories of Barelas. 

Artist Team: Beca Alderete Baca, Courtney Bell, Alicia Chavez, Ophelia Cornet, Izabelle Fernandez, Raul Garza, Beth Hansen, Tureguay Inaru, Annette Lujan, Leonard Madrid, Valerie Martinez, Michelle Otero, Monica Sanchez (Program Director) and Shelle Sanchez. 


The Barelas project was generously funded by the City of Albuquerque (with thanks to City Councilor Isaac Benton), the McCune Charitable Foundation, and New Mexico Arts as well as a range of individual donors.  

We are grateful to the following organizations who have collaborated with us and/or served as advisors and consultants since 2015: Casa Barelas, Mainstreet Barelas, National Hispanic Cultural Center, StoryRiders, Dolores Gonzales Elementary School,  the Barelas Neighborhood Association, and Working Classroom.

 VIDEO: ¡Iluminarte! 2019

Community Engagement 2015-2017

"The Sunset Mix" Intersection Mural - 2021


Children's Bilingual Book Festival - 2020-2021


Trilogy of One-Act Plays - 2019

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