Last April, Denise Weaver Ross (DWR) and I had barely started the Tortuga Bosque mural when the Orpheum Community Hub building request for mural proposals was issued. Though mural painting was new to me, Denise’s unwavering optimism was contagious and I agreed to join her for this new venture.
The Orpheum Community Hub is located in the former Orpheum Theater at the corner of Coal and 2nd Streets in the Barelas neighborhood of Albuquerque. Built in 1898 it was one of New Mexico’s first movie theaters. Over the years it housed the Denver Hotel, the Viaduct Garage (an auto repair shop) and, more recently, served as a performance and studio space for artists with affordable housing catering to the area’s historic and current blossoming arts community.
The building was purchased by Homewise, a non-profit Community Development Financial Institution whose mission is to help create successful homeowners, thereby revitalizing communities. As part of Homewise’s commitment to the community of Barelas, they decided to transform the landmark Orpheum Theater building back to its former vibrancy. To accomplish that goal, Homewise partnered with the City of Albuquerque Public Art Program and issued a call for mural proposals.
Though about the same size as Tortuga’s whopping 94 ft x 25 ft two-sided wrap, this mural was to cover only one side of the building. Denise’s design reflected the history of the Barelas community from it’s railroad to film industry years, and incorporated input from the neighborhood association. It was typical DWR in its well-researched, relevant imagery, and its bright palette. It was awesome, but Albuquerque is the second most affordable city for artists to live in, so competition for this city project was steep. I knew that, and the fact that most muralists here are men in their 30’s and 40’s, so I was blown away when we landed the gig.
Prepping for the project required attending two neighborhood association meetings to gather photos and input, reworking the initial design to fit the as-built elevations, acquiring certification in the operation of aerial boom lifts, and obtaining a city permit and barricades to re-route traffic for a month. As of this writing, we’ve begun sketching the mural design onto the wall and have mixed gallons of Novocolor paint.
Follow our progress on Facebook at Denise Weaver Ross Murals.