July 2014

Stories of Route 66: The International District – A Creative Placemaking and Community Revitalization Project


ID LIVE! Festival: July 26-27


Valerie Martínez


An exciting new project has been taking an unusual approach to community revitalization. The Stories of Route 66 project has brought Albuquerque residents together in a collaborative process of storytelling, art and design. The project is transforming outdoor spaces along the Route 66/Central Avenue corridor in the International District.


This project was developed as a result of several organizations that were working or wanted to work toward transformational change in New Mexico’s most diverse legislative district, which locals refer to as the “ID.” The organizations—Littleglobe, Story of Place Institute (SoPI), UNM School of Architecture and Planning, and the Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority (AMAFCA)—each wanted to apply for a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts “Our Town” program, a community-engagement and creative-placemaking initiative.


NEA “Our Town” grants are very selective and awarded to just a few metropolitan areas in the United States. Usually, organizations present their projects to a city mayor and he or she chooses one to send on to the NEA for consideration. In the fall of 2013, Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry requested that, rather than one organization applying, they work together to create a collaborative project. Mayor Berry assigned the city’s Cultural Services Department to help coordinate the application. The organizations worked hard to find ways in which their individual projects might come together—large-scale arts engagement with residents, community assets mapping, a permanent installation along Route 66, stormwater management as art, and more. The resulting project, “Stories of Route 66: The International District,” was good enough to get an NEA grant, the first of its kind awarded in New Mexico.


The ID is a four-square-mile Southeast Heights neighborhood bordered by Lomas and Gibson and San Mateo and Wyoming boulvevards. The first phase of the project (October, 2013 to September, 2015) is based on two-plus years of relationship building that began in 2011. It emphasizes arts engagement with more than 100 residents, as well as assets mapping and design. Community members, assisted by a Littleglobe artist team, have been sharing their stories and perspectives through movement, visual art, music, theater, filmmaking and other artistic mediums. Meanwhile, SoPI is engaging with community members to map community assets, while students in the UNM School of Architecture and Planning have been involved in a range of place-based projects. All of these collaborations will result in ID LIVE!, a weekend of art and community events on July 26-27.


During the second phase of the project, the UNM School of Architecture and Planning, working with the AMAFCA at a water reclamation site, will utilize the July art and events as inspiration in the creation of a design for a “story plaza,” a permanent space along Route 66 that will be a gateway to history and neighborhood stories. For hundreds of years, plazas in New Mexico have been community-gathering spaces—places to enjoy everyday life and celebrate annual events and festivals. The story plaza in the ID will encompass that tradition. Residents and visitors will be able to enjoy a vibrant and beautiful gathering space that encourages fellowship, understanding and refuge.


Learn more about the project and the ID LIVE! weekend at the Littleglobe website: http://www.littleglobe.org/





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