Josh Lane is the creative director of New Mexico United, the wildly popular Albuquerque-based soccer club that has become a pop cultural phenomenon in its few short years of existence. But it wasn't just the prospect of a professional soccer team that lured Lane. The creative ways in which the team would be promoted and integrated into the community are "the reason I was attracted to this team in the beginning," says the man whose job it is to oversee the brand's visual storytelling. "I joined in 2018 before we even had a name or a stadium. I met with Peter Trevisani at first in a small office they had. He pitched me this idea of creating a soccer team that was successful on field and off. Art and sports together. Uniting art and sports. This poster project is just the next iteration."
The poster project Lane is referring to is the team's latest way of reaching out to the broader New Mexico community. For the 2022 season, NM United has recruited 17 New Mexico artists to produce 17 original posters, one for each of the team's home games. Those posters will be printed in limited quantities of 505 and will be on sale for $5.75 at Rio Grande Credit Union Field at Isotopes Park during the games.
United has worked with dozens of local artists over the past couple of seasons. Santa Fe's Meow Wolf collective famously designed jerseys for the club. Most recently, United partnered with a number of artists for a mural project in Nob Hill. Lane describes the new Artist Series poster designs as a "season-long project intended to bring more artists than we've ever really brought in before."
"This is an exciting opportunity, taking the megaphone and platform that the team has and putting it in the hands of artists." United is looking for posters "that are about the team, but also about who the artists are."
Lane calls the upcoming "who's who" of artists a "great mix from Albuquerque, from all over the state. A great representation of male and female, non-binary and queer, super fans and some artists who have never been to a game creating work more broadly about New Mexico in general."
The first artist to design a poster for the project is Albuquerque's Jon Sanchez. Under the name of "Jonito," Sanchez has become famous for producing a string of meticulously illustrated silk-screen posters for musicians and movies alike. His limited edition posters for "midnight movie" screenings at Nob Hill's Guild Cinema have become cult collectibles.
"I was first contacted by Stephanie Zuniga, the NM United retail manager, to ask if this project was something I’d be interested in—and I gave her an immediate, enthusiastic yes!" says Sanchez.
"Jon is an incredible artist," says Lane, who was introduced to Sanchez's talent years ago. "We crossed paths at UNM's Marketing Department, and I was blown away when I saw his work."
"I was told I would be one of 17 different New Mexican artists to design 17 unique gameday posters for each of their home games," recalls Sanchez. "The purpose of this Artist Series is to further United's goal of bringing art and sport together in a distinctive way, highlighting and supporting local artists."
Lane hopes fans will line up to collect all 17 posters over the course of the season. The price on the posters is intended to be "super accessible, super affordable. We want to make sure this club, at every level and interaction point, fans are able to access—financial or otherwise."
Lane is also a proponent of limiting the number of posters and distributing them at the stadium itself, "centralized to in-person experience," as he calls it. "Part of the culture of posters is—especially as it relates to someone like Jon, who's done a lot of movie posters—it's a piece of memorabilia you bring home after you've experienced it in person."
The main inspiration for Jon's inaugural poster image: "New Mexico itself. I wanted to illustrate key elements reminiscent of our state—the roadrunner, hot air balloons, mountain ranges from different regions and the yucca flower. I also recognize how essential the fans are to NM United, so I made sure to incorporate the fans at the top of the poster, cheering with flags and banners. I definitely wanted to design the poster in my style."
United is keeping most of the other artists under wraps for now. And if the team does well, making its way into playoff games and championships, the number of home games will increase, forcing the club to contract even more of these collectible artworks.
"We just had the biggest weeks of the year," says Lane. "Two huge jerseys released. The Black and Yellow Bash at Electric Playhouse—a thousand people at that, meeting with team members. Our home opener was a huge success. Biggest crowd since COVID hit. Also we had a win. Every single home game is an event. Home games are a huge success. People are dressing up, creating unique costumes for themselves."
And with the addition of the Artists Series, Lane is glad these enthusiastic New Mexico fans "are now also being exposed to all these amazing artists. Giving them and their artwork a platform and recognition."
"The response has been extremely positive," says Sanchez. "My family and friends were so excited. NM United was great about posting the poster on social media and highlighting the art as well as the artist. The support and exposure were wonderful, and I gained some new fans of my art along the way."
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