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NMSU, DACC public art project offers park views from larger-than-life windows

  • By Tonya Suther
  • 575-646-6233
  • suther@nmsu.edu
  • Jan 29, 2013
Five stand alone windows
Albuquerque residents will soon have a great view of the Sandia Mountains from park windows thanks to a public art project created by faculty, staff and students of New Mexico State University and Dona Ana Community College.

The park windows project, "You Are Here," consists of five steel windows mounted on concrete benches. The windows, which will be installed Feb. 16, at Ventanas Ranch Park, a new development on the west side of Albuquerque, are designed with box seats on each side for people to sit, think or just enjoy the view.

"I expect that children and those who are young at heart will interact with the windows as well," said Rachel Stevens, the art professor at NMSU who initiated the project. "There is much to gain from the sculpture - the only limit is one's imagination."

The art department in the College of Arts and Sciences teamed up with the College of Engineering and DACC's Welding Technology Program and the DACC Building Construction Technology Program to collaborate on the work.

"The fast pace and artistic nature of this project was truly gratifying," said Jose (Pep) Gomez, professor of welding at DACC. "All of the students involved learned an immense amount about working with an artist and completing a sizeable team project on a timeline. All were justifiably proud of their involvement in the creation of the finished product."

Each window is painted in hues of blue, green and turquoise and designed to reference historic adobe homes. With varying dimensions, the smallest window is 69 inches by 32 inches and the largest 80 inches by 63 inches. All windows are six inches deep.

"In conceiving my design for Ventanas Ranch Park, I drew on my passion for New Mexico's vernacular architecture," Stevens said. "This passion is rooted in personal experience: I own a historic home located in Las Cruces' Mesquite district, and for many years worked on its restoration."

As a first step for the project, Stevens submitted a proposal to the City of Albuquerque through New Mexico's Art in Pubic Places legislation, often called the 1 percent program for its requirement to spend a portion of public capital appropriations on artwork. The Albuquerque project called for proposals to create outdoor works for each of the nine city council districts. Stevens' project was selected for district five in August.

She then contacted David Twitty, a professor in DACC's Welding Technology Program, about involving students in the project. Twitty suggested the 19-student fabrication class taught by Gomez.

"Pep is a master welder, blacksmith and teacher," Stevens said. "On day one of fabrication, he organized students to cut 2-inch by 6-inch steel tubing for the windows frames."

Gomez also helped to refine the details of the pieces and oversaw the student construction, as well as assisted in the development and solidification of the construction concept.

"With a whole lot of guidance and coordination over the following 14 weeks, the students were able to utilize their newly acquired metal-working skills to convert several thousand pounds of structural steel into a public art project that we hope will enhance the lives of everyone who encounters it," Gomez said.

NMSU's College of Engineering created computer-aided drawings, elevation views and a 3-D model of the project. They also planned and directed the concrete pour for the benches.

The drawings, created by Eduardo Gamillo, an engineer in the College of Engineering, were used to assess and order materials.

"I was responsible for creating an accurate 3-D model of the project using SketchUp design software, and placing it in its proposed location using Google Earth," said Daniel Kim, a research specialist in the College of Engineering. "Pictures of the site, including the art installation, were created using the Google Earth scenery, which showed the installation from different angles."

Sonya Cooper, associate dean in the College of Engineering, served as the project engineer. She recruited NMSU engineering student Isaias Corona to manage the concrete pour for the windows' foundations. Welding student Miguel Corona and Tyler Johnson, a College of Engineering graduate student, assisted with the process. Isaias and Miguel are first cousins and veterans of the concrete business. Their family owns and operates Las Cruces Construction.

Others involved in the project include Katya Reka, an assistant professor in the NMSU art department who served as a consultant for the window colors; and Vince Martinez, a technician for welding technology at DACC who ordered supplies, maintained equipment and motivated students.

The windows were cleaned, primed and painted at the DACC Work Force Center by Larry Brooks, an instructor, Dominick Fiumara, a technician, and students enrolled in the painting class of the Building Construction Technology Program.

"Pep hand forged window handles for the casements, hinges, and a white-winged dove that perches within one of the windows," Stevens said. "Over the course of the project, I etched miles of wood grain texture into the steel surfaces."

To complete the installation, Stevens and Twitty, along with a group of students, will return to Albuquerque where they will weld the five colorful windows to each bench in the park.

A dedication ceremony will be announced at a later date.

"Working with this group of experts has been nothing short of wonderful," Stevens said. "The sculpture is a composite of them all."

For more information contact Stevens at 575-646-1705 or rstevens@nmsu.edu.