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International District, Albuquerque, NM
January-December 2019

This project transforms a dirt lot into a pop-up (mobile) park with art.  


The site is located at the SE corner of San Mateo and Southern Blvds in the South San Pedro neighborhood, in the southeast quadrant of Albuquerque’s International District. The site has been generously donated for use by the International District Economic Development Center.

Large mobile containers—adorned with art—will contain plants and other greenery. Additional features may include mobile rain barrels, sun shades, artfully adorned “water conveyance devices” and other rainwater harvesting systems.  Use of recycled materials will be prioritized and space for sitting and walking will be incorporated into the design. Art will include a metal and acrylic shade structure, murals, and stepping stones.  Artful Life lead artists are Billy Joe Miller and Maggie Ramos-Mullane.


With local support and funding, the park can be permanently installed on-site or moved to an empty lot.


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.  


This project will engage residents in both the design and installation of the park as well as the art (mini-murals, found object sculpture, etc.).  Recruitment of youth, from the area, is also an important component of this project—Rocky Mountain Youth Corps will train local and other youth to create the park, providing desperately needed employment opportunities. 

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 will take place in the South San Pedro neighborhood to encourage support and participation and provide design ideas. 

Phase Two (June-July,2019): RMYC recruits, trains and employs young adults to build elements of the park while Artful Life artists and community teams create art for the space.

Phase Three (July-August 2019): The park elements are installed during a community build/service/volunteer day.  Then, a public ribbon-cutting and celebration will open the park.

Phase Four (August-December 2019): Maintenance of the park.  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 info@artful-life.org.  

The project is 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, in partnership with the City of Albuquerque (CABQ).


Funders include the McCune Charitable Foundation, Artful Life and The Nature Conservancy with considerable in-kind support from Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, the NM State Urban Forestry Division and the International District Economic Development Center.

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%.


Renderings: Maggie Ramos-Mullane

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.