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News Coverage: "Pop Up Park is Cool" Albuquerque Journal

International District, Albuquerque, NM
2016 - 2019

This project transformed a dirt lot in the International District--an urban heat island--into a pop-up (mobile) park with art. Artful Life collaborated with residents of the neighborhood as well as the following partners to create more green space in a part of the city with only 3% tree canopy: The Nature Conservancy, South San Pedro Neighborhood Association, New Mexico Forestry, and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps.  


The new park was temporary located at the SE corner of San Mateo and Southern Boulevards in the South San Pedro neighborhood, in the southeast quadrant of Albuquerque’s International District. 

The project engaged residents in both the design and installation of the park as well as the art.  The park included large mobile containers with plants and trees. Water containers were surrounded by mural-adorned sheaves. A steel and acrylic shade structure, "Iris," was the art centerpiece of the park and created a gorgeous pattern that travels the park as the day unfolds.    


The mobile elements of this project are innovative and significant. They allow for a manageable budget while encouraging support for longer-term investment in green space. By recreating the space (a dirt subsection of the site) the city, businesses and funders will be able to envision art and greenery in the area, encouraging support for pop-up parks and other green space initiatives in the district, an urban heat island.  


The park can also be moved to one of the many other empty lots in the district to encourage investment in green space district-wide.  

Artful Life lead artists were Billy Joe Miller and Mitch Berg  ("Iris") and Maggie Ramos-Mullane (murals) who worked with Artful Life Project Coordinator and neighborhood resident Donna Orozco-Geist.

The project was a collaboration between residents, the South San Pedro Neighborhood Association, Artful Life, The Nature Conservancy, The Rocky Mountain Youth Corps (RMYC), and the New Mexico State Forestry Division.


Funders include the McCune Charitable Foundation, the City of Albuquerque, Albuquerque Community Foundation and The Nature Conservancy with considerable in-kind support from Rocky Mountain Youth Corps and the NM State Urban Forestry Division.

Phase One (January-May 2019): Artful Life, in partnership with the South San Pedro Neighborhood Association, engages community members with artists and technical staff to co-envision, -design and -create a plan (including works of art) that will inhabit the transformed space. Five community sessions took place in the South San Pedro neighborhood to encourage support and participation and provide design ideas. 

Phase Two (June-July, 2019): RMYC recruited, trained and employed youth and adults to build elements of the park with assistance of The Nature Conservancy staff while Artful Life artists and community teams created art for the space.

Phase Three (July-August 2019): The park elements were installed during a community build/service/volunteer day followed by a public ribbon-cutting and celebration which opened the park.

Phase Four (August-December 2019): Maintenance of the park continues.  Continuing collaboration and dialogue with residents and the lot owner about permanent installation on site or moving the park to an additional location.  

For more information contact Project Coordinator Donna Orozco-Geist at  

With over 40 languages spoken in its public schools, the International District of Albuquerque is the most ethnically diverse legislative district in the state of New Mexico. It is the epicenter of refugee settlement, includes the largest urban population of Native Americans in the state, and is also home to native New Mexicans, recent and long-term immigrants, and transplants. For these reasons, it is one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the city of Albuquerque. 

At the same time, the International District faces a range of critical challenges, including its status as an urban heat island. Areas are dominated by concrete and asphalt punctuated by empty, dirt lots. Tree canopy is at a staggeringly low 3% (the national average is 27%) with many streets and intersections closer to 0%.

Rapid, short-sighted development allowed the use of paving as the cheapest form of landscaping. The lack of trees and other shrubbery in the ID directly leads to poor public health conditions. The “Healthy Trees, Healthy People” study (Portland State University) indicates that the ID has among the worst, urban, heat island (UHI) effects and transportation-related air quality in the city.  The resulting respiratory and heat-related illnesses and mortality effects target the most vulnerable--those who are too poor for adequate shelter and cooling. 

This project works to improve health conditions in the ID through a participatory and collaborative community process that enables residents to co-create a beautiful, green public space.

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