Ellen Babcock with assistance from Jorie Emory
Highland Art Club facilitators:
Peter Yahnke, Elena Lopez, and D. R.
Highland Poetry Club facilitator: Heather McGuire
The Orphan Sign Project is a collaborative, public art project that explores alternative models of community engagement through public art and art education. Inspired by old and abandoned sign structures on Central Avenue—called "Orphans" by the historic preservation community—we propose community-oriented reclamation and creative re-purposing of Orphan Signs into vibrant public art. Many Orphan Signs, although valued relics of Route 66 roadside culture, are now experienced as eyesores and are likely to be torn down unless their potential for reuse is realized. This project coincides with neighborhood, City, and County initiatives to revitalize the International District. As pilot projects, we are executing interventions on two Orphan Signs in the Highland/International District, focusing on the former Tradewinds motel sign at San Mateo and Central, and on a second sign at 4119 Central Avenue, former site of the El Sarape restaurant. In collaboration with Highland High School art and poetry students, we are designing changing texts for the reader board of the Tradewinds sign, and an entirely new, professionally produced and lit, two-sided sign for the currently skeletal sign structure at 4119 Central. The Tradewinds sign is a temporary project for which we have a two year lease from the property owners, the El Sarape sign will become property of the city, and a permanent public artwork.
We began our partnership with Highland High School in January 2010, teaming UNM graduate students with Highland art students to re-imagine and create new sign designs for the Orphan Signs on East Central. We have created an after school Art Club at Highland to focus on these designs as well as on individual student projects. This collaboration provides Albuquerque public school students with an unusual opportunity for involvement in a public art project while providing some consolation for recent cuts in art education budgets.
· Opening and engaging in a dialogue about collaboration and community participation in public art
· Development of collaborative UNM/Highland High School partnerships
· Revitalization of historically significant sign infrastructure
· Realization of new, community-oriented public art that is distinctly and proudly “Albuquerque”
Friends of the Orphan Signs is proud to seek partnership with Highland High School, University of New Mexico, the City of Albuquerque, Nob Hill Development Corp., Excel Hospitality, Southwest Outdoor Electric Co., and Creative Albuquerque.