In the middle of the pandemic, the Albuquerque collective Art on the Rio decided to launch a space where artists can focus on their craft and monetize their work. It was an idea that was in motion pre-pandemic, but the group was dealt a losing hand. Art on the Rio looked into renting a space to display and sell their wares, but the lockdown forced them to push pause on their plans. After some thought, the team went with the approach of putting art around the city. It’s a move that saves them money and puts different artists’ work in various places while supporting local businesses.
Art on the Rio features a plethora of Albuquerque-based creatives. Since they range widely in style, it gives art collectors the option to find the perfect piece to their liking. One of the highlighted artists for April is Abel Lopez, a Santa Fe native who specializes in “geek and cartoon” art. Lopez has appreciated Art on the Rio’s approach to art and the business world.
“Some of the brick-and-mortar partners have definitely helped with exposure, not only for me but other artists that may not have that exposure yet,” Lopez explains. “For example, American Home Furniture had 20 pieces of ours displayed around the store, and it makes sense because people going in there and buying stuff. They might take home a piece of art. It helps with exposure and gives us different avenues as artists to sell our work.”
Not only has Art on the Rio expanded its band of local artists, but it has brought awareness to the Albuquerque community. After Lopez’s collection was displayed at American Home Furniture, Java Joe’s Downtown started to feature his work inside their coffee shop. As the collective continues to progress, more and more places will feature more of the collective’s work.
“For years my fiancée and I tried to figure out how to support small businesses and creative people. It’s really a marketplace that cultivates and curates community around itself,” says Art on the Rio’s organizer Carlos Contreras. “Surely we want folks to buy our art; but in the end we want the community to learn about art, the artists and care about the process. We think this creates an opportunity for that connection to happen.”
With business and art combining to help develop local Albuquerque artists during the pandemic, the creative process to express one’s artistic side has affected some of the artists differently. Lopez, who struggled with tapping into his inspiration at the beginning of the pandemic, found the influence when Art on the Rio launched.
“I didn’t produce as much art as I wanted during the lockdown, even with the time I had at home. I just didn’t have the creative drive to produce stuff, so it was rough. But with this collective and having an art show, it brings that whole drive back in,” Lopez says. “It really has helped my comeback and produce art. After finishing up my last art show, I can kick back and think of the next project.”
Art on the Rio will be presenting a virtual art show every Sunday through their Facebook page at 6 pm.