ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – 516 ARTS is a contemporary art museum in Albuquerque and its education program is now focused on helping local students create and learn about art. The museum is providing art materials to the 600 students enrolled in an art class this semester at Albuquerque High School who have been attending school online since August.

Executive Director Suzanne Sbarge said the non-profit has raised over $6,000 from community donations and another $4,500 has been raised for Title 1 schools, specifically from the art teachers at Albuquerque High School.

“This is a fundraising effort that has been a collaboration between 516 ART and the art department at Albuquerque High School. It’s just art teachers getting together with a community organization to make it happen,” Sbarge said.

Students will get a kit corresponding to the individual class they are taking. There have been some delays in getting the materials for the kits, in part because of COVID-19 but also because part of the funding has to go through the various Albuquerque Public Schools checkpoints.

“Because the funding is for Title 1 schools, it has to go through the school, the district, the state and others, so that’s part of what’s causing the delay but it’s in the works and we’re hoping to get the students their kits before the semester ends,” Sbarge said.

The organization is treating this as a pilot program, hoping it can be replicated with other schools and museums. The program is proposed to continue through the pandemic but has the potential to provide longer-term support for students to help bridge inequities into the future.

“There’s a real concentration of low-income students at Title 1 schools. Most of them have to receive some sort of supplemental funding to help them meet their educational goals, but the supplements really reflect the inequity that exists in the public education system,” Sbarge said. “There’s not enough books, the classes are too big, the buildings are old. It’s these inequities we were thinking of when we decided we wanted to reach all art students with these kits.”

In this round of kits, the art materials provided and the corresponding curriculum will connect to two exhibitions currently at 516 ARTS-Radical Reimaginings and Feminisms.

Radical Reimaginings reflects on the shifting world using collage, a medium that has been historically used by artists to directly engage with the visual narratives of their time and to re-imagine the stories that have been told. 

Feminisms highlights Indigenous women artists, among artists of various cultures, whose creative possibilities use the theme of feminism in its most expansive meaning. It is curated by Andrea R. Hanley (Navajo) whose works address subjects including the diasporic experience, resilience, self-determination, the body, and land according to the website.

“We want to help these children express themselves as they live through this crisis. We want them to find themselves and find comfort in the art they make and the art they learn about,” Sbarge said.

516 ARTS still needs to raise an additional $8,000 in order to give every student at the high school a kit and is accepting donations online. The kits are $25 each but the community members can donate any amount they’d like to.

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