By Jim Weaver
Few cities in the world have the cultural richness you find in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Founded in 1609, the city has both the traditions of its Native Americans and of the Spanish who settled here centuries later. Persons interested in fine crafts might spend weeks here and then not see it all. There are museums, dozens of galleries, and numerous craft fairs all presenting high quality work by craft artists from New Mexico and beyond.
Dancers at Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center here is operated by the 19 Native American Pueblos in the region. An orientation and educational center, it is a good starting point for anyone interested in crafts. There is an excellent museum exhibiting many fine examples of ceramic, fiber, and jewelry. The museum also tells the history of the various pueblos in wall text, photos, video and with an excellent docent guide. In addition to the museum, there are live music and dance performances given in an outdoor courtyard by representatives from the various pueblos, and native craft artists demonstrating their creative skills and selling their work. The Center also has a large retail shop where you can be assured of purchasing authentic Native American art and crafts. There is also an excellent cafe/restaurant here. The center offers a wide range of educational programs including a summer camp program for children and youth that focuses on crafts. See <www.indianpueblocc.org>;.
The National Hispanic Cultural Center of New Mexico (NHCC) is located here. Its mission is to create a greater cross-cultural appreciation and understanding of Hispanic culture by preserving and promoting historic and contemporary Hispanic arts, humanities and achievements over the past 400 years.
The NHCC, located on the banks of the Rio Grande River in the historic Albuquerque neighborhood of Barelas, is home the Intel Center for Technology & Visual Arts, a library and genealogy center, a computer learning center, a restaurant, a gift shop and the newly completed Roy E. Disney Center for Performing Arts comprising three state-of-the-art performance venues.
Native American Jewelry
Since 2000, the NHCC has presented over 20 major art exhibitions and 400 programs in the visual, performing, and literary arts featuring local, national and international artists, scholars and entertainers. I had the privilege of viewing a fine exhibit of New Mexican style wooden furniture and an outstanding Spanish figurative clay exhibit from a large personal collection recently contributed to the museum.
At NHCC, Master Fresco Artist, Frederico Vigil, has prepared a massive painting depicting the cultural development of Hispanic heritage from prehistory to the present. Completed in 2010, the fresco covers more than 4,000 square feet including the ceiling and 45-foot tall interior walls of the Torreón (tower) here.
There are a number of commercial galleries in Albuquerque that feature high quality crafts by artists from the region. Mariposa Gallery, in the Nob Hill neighborhood, represents a number of local crafts artists including jewelers Debra Colonna-Huser and Kristin Diener who create some exceptional silver jewelry with precious and semiprecious stones. Mariposa gallery is celebrating its 37th year of business, and is one of the oldest craft galleries in the country. See <www.mariposa-gallery.com>;.
Native American Pottery
Agape Gallery located just of the square in Old Town Albuquerque features an excellent selection of pueblo pottery. See <www.agapesw.com>;. Aurora Borealis Gallery offers outstanding hot glass objects by local artisans. See <www.auroraborealisglassworks.com>;
Weems Gallery (with two locations) has been in business for more than three decades and presents the work of numerous regional craft artists. The gallery also sponsors the Weems International Arts Fest. Held twice a year, its a major multicultural art event displaying over 200 top artisans in every medium and price range. See <www.weemsgallery.com>;.
Pimentel & Sons creates custom hand crafted guitars. Using only the finest woods and other materials, the three sons of Lorenzo Pimentel produce some of the world’s finest instruments.
International fame came in 1978 when the Pimentels were invited to display their guitars at the Smithsonian Institute. Then its instruments started showing up in the hands of Pepe Romero, Johnny Smith, Ottmar Liebert, Manuel Lopez Ramos, and other guitar playing luminaries. Today they build high quality custom guitars for many of the world’s leading musicians. The work sometimes requires two years and the cost may be as much as $15,000. See <www.pimentelguitars.com>;.
Begun in 1989, the Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Festivals have become an Albuquerque and New Mexico tradition. Held three times a year in March, October and November, the event attracts tens of thousands. The juried shows feature the work of hundreds of the nation’s leading artists and craftspeople.
The March and November events are held indoors at the New Mexico Fairgrounds. October’s Festival, held under a “big white tent,” has become an Albuquerque landmark during the Balloon Fiesta. The Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Festival has long been recognized by the New Mexico Department of Tourism as one of the state’s top 10 attractions.
The Nob Hill Crafts and Gifts Show is a small event in a great location with 25 to 30 local vendors presenting their excellent quality crafts.
The one day event is is free and held each July at the Rythmic Arts Center in the Nob Hill neighborhood.
KayDee Balloon Fiesta Arts & Crafts Show
features local artists and craftsmen who create beautiful handmade glass art, jewelry, wood working, fiber art, and more. The show is free to the public. The juried event ensures high quality and a variety of crafts. The event is held at Hilton Garden Inn during the annual Balloon Fiesta each October.
Learn more about Albuquerque, its duel cultural heritage, and its abundant craft scene.