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‘We Are This City’

‘We Are This City’

'We Are This City'

 An Artists’ Manifesto, Reaching Out to ABQ’s Creatives

For the next few issues, ABQ Free Press will showcase local art on its cover, as well as editorial contributions from Albuquerque group We Are This City. The organization develops authentic local, national and international infrastructure for Albuquerque creatives. The goal is long-term sustainable growth for the creative economy, an objective fully supported by this publication.

In September 2015, We Are This City hosted two community-driven events titled “ABQ Balloon Blast.” More than 70 youth and families participated in these interactive art experiences, which invited community members to create abstract art by throwing balloons filled with paint at a designated wall and 10 fiberboard panels. These were then cut into 2-by-2-foot sections and shared with 75 artists invited to add their creative flair. The cover image featured in this issue is one example from this process.

We Are This City continues to leverage their relationships, momentum and support to develop even bigger projects so that Albuquerque’s creative community can continue to grow and be proud of its accomplishments. We believe that the economic and social impact of We Are This City has profound value to our communities-at-large.

The following is the “We Are This City” manifesto written by Hakim Bellamy, project collaborator and inaugural Poet Laureate of Albuquerque (2012-2014).

Hakim Bellamy

Hakim Bellamy. Image courtesy of Abby Feldman.






We be
a bucket of Rio,
two handfuls of mesa,
an open box full of God
between the Sandias
and the volcanoes
our name is mud.

We be
close enough to heaven
and clear enough of sky
for the creator
to mouth-to-mouth us alive.

We make dirty,
the new “immaculate,”
make car washes obsolete.

We be
urban farm hands
for rural app developers,
be the best brewed beans
and microbrew
in a six mesa radius …
in a hundred mañana radius
We be coffee shop crushes
And conversations
We be the crème de la creatives
We powder with pollen
And monsoon foundation for make up
On the rare occasion we make up
Only when the winter white tablecloths the mesa
We be aquifers
of brown gold.

We be the same colored souls
We be an open heart horizon
Transplants, land grants
And colonial survivors
We be
People of the earth
And out of this world
At the same time.

We inherit this pride
This “keep it real” estate of intellectual property
We B-Q-U-E-R-Q-U-E, aye!

We be
sunsets so beautiful
they paint themselves
on the edge of the earth.

We be
where dreams come to live
and retire.

We be
artists making careers
out of thin air.

We be
made up words like
because stars gotta land somewhere?
because the center of the universe
has gotta be somewhere?
because even “the sun”
has a vacation home in New Mexico.
because we be made upwards
not down words
like mountaintop, we be
adobe inside and out.

We might look like
armored vegetarians, but we be
the coolest gatas you’ll ever meet
on the inside.

We be
entrepreneurs and doers.
Somewhere between bright ideas and
“done and done.”

We be
chile by blood and balloon for lungs.

We be
no “I” in team, but two in familia
We be
Full moons and photosynthesis
not a cloud to be found
We be radiant
Worshipping the skies
With hand signs that 505
To remind our unidentified flying cousins
That we out here,
Fighting for our light
We be loco
We be local
We be lobos
singing to the night.

We are your favorite city’s
favorite city.
The heart of the Southwest
leaning just a lil to the left
in New Mexico’s chest.
Copyright Hakim Bellamy


Brian Thomas Bailey was born in 1971 in the backwoods of Scranton, Pennsylvania. An artist from an early age, Bailey could make his mark well before he could walk or talk. As a child, he learned how to copy the funny papers and impress friends with the cheap parlor tricks of a young artist.

The boy who always dreamed of making it big then packed his bags and moved to New York City to learn the ways of big city artist types. His worldly education at the School of Visual Arts did not satisfy him, though, so with BFA in hand, he moved to Albuquerque in 1998.

Brian Thomas Bailey. Image courtesy of the artist.

Brian Thomas Bailey. Image courtesy of the artist.

Inspiration for this work lies mostly in the folk, Native American and street art Bailey found in New Mexico. Burqueños can see Bailey’s work on the lower level of the Albuquerque Convention Center, near the fireplace. Sold to the CABQ Public Art Collection, the piece features 16 tiles with portraits of local artists.

Bailey’s involvement with We Are This City stems from the relationship he built with WATC originator Max Baptiste, himself a patron of Bailey’s art. The elements of community involvement, support and networking of the arts group all appealed to Bailey as an independent artist, who used the group’s skills to market his work in a modern way.

Today, Bailey is back in Scranton, where he works for a screen-printing operation and paints at home by candlelight with his two dogs.

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Ashley Kurtz is a freelance theater critic.

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