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A view into Old Town art galleries

Established in 1706, Old Town is the city of Albuquerque’s first neighborhood. Throughout its history, Old Town has provided the city with iconic art, architecture and cuisine. One of the things that makes it unique in Albuquerque history is the vast number of art galleries. From the weird to the wonderful, Old Town is packed with art of diverse perspectives and drives.

Albuquerque Photographers’ Gallery 

Located on San Felipe Street, this photography gallery cooperative features nine local photographers’ art. Award-winning photographer Marilyn Hunter founded the gallery in 2003, with its 20th anniversary coming up next April. Though Hunter has since passed away, the remaining founders and artists have kept the gallery afloat.

Urey Lemen, one of the original gallery members whose photographs are featured in the gallery, has dedicated almost 50 years of his life to the art thanks to his father — also a photographer. 

“A lot of people come here, tourists mostly, and they want to see what kind of landscapes are available from our point of view. Hopefully they’ll take home one of our art pieces; a memory of their trip to the Southwest,” Lemen said.

The gallery photographs are mostly taken in southwestern New Mexico, but they also feature photographs taken all over the world.

Painted Sky Gallery

Nationally acclaimed artist David Behren utilizes a unique approach of blending iconic Native American images with moving and provocative themes in his oil paintings. His gallery has been open since 2010 and has sold paintings across the world.

Behren tries to connect history to art with a person’s mind and heart which also connects with their emotions. 

“A place without a story becomes like a tumbleweed blowing away. So the story of New Mexico is essential,” Behren said.

Painted Sky is also located on San Felipe Street and is open from 10 a.m. - 6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. on Sunday.

The Shop at Old Town

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This family owned gallery features pottery from five local Native American tribes, demonstrating the various and unique techniques to each.

The Acoma Pueblo’s techniques include white and black touches of terracotta. The Laguna tribe’s pottery often portrays ceremonial dances and symbolic animals such as bears. Pottery from the Navajo tribe includes edgework with its own colorful flare. There’s also pieces from the Jemez Pueblo, which use a stone-polish finish to give a natural glow from the clay when firing. Finally, The Shop also features pottery from the Zia Pueblo, who use natural clay from the reservation, with every piece being coiled and painted by hand. 

Tessa Montano, manager at the gallery, believes it’s important to share this art because of culture and tradition.

“I think (Old Town) keeps the culture and the tradition alive. It’s the heart of Albuquerque,” Montano said.

The gallery has been in business for 18 years and is divided in two locations right next to each other. The second location features Native American jewelry from the Navajo and Zuni tribes, as well as pieces from Mexico.

Yucca Art Gallery 

Also an artists’ gallery cooperative, Yucca Art was established in 1964 and features artists’ crafts, jewelry and paintings. Yucca Art is managed by 39 local artists and is the oldest cooperative gallery in Albuquerque, according to co-manager and artist Rick LaBan. LaBan is a silversmith and has been practicing the medium for 15 years.

“It’s a form of expression and we all have to express ourselves, or should.” LaBan said. “It’s so satisfying for me even if it not sells, it’s almost not the point,”

The gallery is an original building from Old Town and used to be a carriage house in the late 1800s.

Ghost Wolf Gallery

Established in 2015, Ghost Wolf Gallery has won numerous local awards and received a feature in Lifestyle Magazine. The gallery features 16 local artists whose work is unusual in either content or execution. Curator and owner Amy Ditto chooses which artists to feature.

Roe Libretto, a featured watercolor artist and assistant at Ghost Wolf, said she sees visions she doesn’t understand until she turns them into paintings. She believes her art’s purpose is to help people to understand more about themselves, their view of the world and their place in it.

“(Old Town) preserves the history in its architecture and the layout of the town itself. It creates a venue for younger people to express themselves. It’s kind of like an incubator,” Libretto said.

Annya Loya is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @annyaloya

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