At the Valle de Oro Urban Wildlife Refuge (VDO), five local female artists worked together to make five murals on the different ecosystems of the refuge.

As part of the 516 ARTS: Species in Peril Along the Rio Grande Collaborative Exhibition Series, each artist is creating her own billboard-style freestanding mural set up in different parts of the refuge to illustrate what each area is going to look like in the future.

Francesca Searer is the artist who helped create the mural program for VDO, and her mural focuses on the wetland habitat with the sunset in the background. Nani Chacon is painting her mural for the Visitor Center, which has a big focus on pollinator gardens with a general overview of the entire refuge. Erin De Rosa is painting her mural on the Storm Water Habitat, Jessica Chao is working on the mural for the bosque and Haley Greenfeather English is doing a mural for the Upland Habitat.



The artists are funded by the Bernalillo County Public Art Program and just got their art supplies on Oct. 12. They will be working on the murals every weekend until their completion around the first week of November. Each artist works with a refuge staff member and biologist to determine what will be in each individual habitat.

"The biggest part of why we decided to do this project is to promote this refuge," Searer said. "It’s a really special gem, and we want to be a part of making sure people know that this is part of their home and that they can come here."

The five muralists enjoy painting out on the refuge because they get to watch the moon come up and enjoy the company of all the birds flying around the area as they work.

"I’m really excited," said Greenfeather English. "It’s going to take a while, but this is like the best-case scenario (for the refuge)."

Her work on the uplands shows the different aspects of humans' relationship to nature and how even the plants and rocks have a personality that needs to be respected.

Aside from the stationary murals around the refuge, the featured poet Amaris Ketcham, an assistant professor and artist at the University of New Mexico, leads a poetry walk and reading through the bosque as part of a monthly series called Walking With Poets. The events are organized by Albuquerque Poet Laureate Michelle Otero.

Every month at the VDO has a different theme for poetry in nature. Otero reached out to 516 ARTS to work in collaboration with the field murals and Species in Peril Along the Rio Grande. The next poetry reading will feature Scott Wiggerman, the local chapter president for the New Mexico State Poet Society, and be held on Nov. 15 at the Albuquerque Open Space Visitor Center on Coors.

Daniel Ward is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at culturereporter@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @DanielW92517035