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Civic Duties • back

My sense of duty as a member of a community and an artist has always been part of who I am.  As such, I am very passionate about the work I do and what I have achieved.  I grew up in a community with a large public sculpture, “We The People,” created by my uncle and mentor, Armando Alvarez.  His public sculptures are found throughout New Mexico and at the L.A. Zoo (which I helped with).  He also worked as an art teacher for a number of years on the Navajo reservation, telling me that it’s his students who are teaching him.  In some ways I continue my uncle's work of educating artists, mentoring a number of artists of all ages from the Navajo and Zuni reservation, as well as local artists for free.  

I've started five galleries as a means to contribute to an art community, and a sixth gallery for profit.  

I have been part of larger movements to enact changes and have seen amazing transformations of a community when people work together.  I have also been part of very small cabal that has affected grand changes by working without any real public support.  


Sadly I have also seen the negative side of aiding an art community, like when organisations take over and control, perverting an art scene into means to receiving grant money.


 My first real involvement with civic activities started in Binghamton, New York where a simple act created a huge transformation that echos to this day.  I began an artist led movement to transform the large and dying downtown of Binghamton NY (population of 250,000 regionally) on accident!  The region had a robust economy from industry, once upon a time.  It was the regional home of IBM originally.  The downtown was living proof of the hard times the town suffered from, many buildings were on the verge of falling down.  Information about the restoration of downtown buildings:  Treasure of the Southern Tier.  At night the downtown became a ghost town, and was a good place to get stabbed or worse.  In its heyday, old timers told me

that downtown was always lively, filled with music, dancing, and fun.  A friend of

mine shared a photo of her mother getting out of work, walking downtown. 

Originally I thought it was a photo of her mother in NYC.  I got to see some of

the old buildings, abandoned or not, and was shocked at how ornate they were. 

The building across the street from my gallery was an old theatre where Teddy

Roosevelt gave a speech to a crowd.

What I began was from the simple act of taking my easels and artwork to down-

town, what I thought of as a street art show.  Why not turn the street into a

gallery?  This idea, prompted by my successful gallery show, which according to the owner is still their best show, getting the most sales, drawing the biggest crowd.  Even the mayor bought art from me at the show.  I was only slightly active in NYC, preferring to basically cut ties with the art scene to focus on my newest body of work.  Binghamton became a great place to test this new work out.  So began a period of time where I began to have art shows on the street.  First alone, however from my first impromptu street show I gained one supporter.  Another artist asked if he could join next time.  From there it grew. 

These shows ended when one of the downtown building owners asked me if I wanted to start a gallery which he

would subsidise.  Of course, I said yes.  The night before I had my first official opening there was a 

stabbing murder in the alleyway across the street from my gallery.  The last outdoors show happened without me, I was 29, in a serious health crisis, where it was believed I would die.  It was the first event in what would become a lifelong journey I've had with my heart, owing to a genetic issue.  The art community I was fostering came out in support of me.

The conclusion is that within five years, a group of artists created and revived a dying downtown.  The NY Times did a story "Can Art Save A Town?." in which

the answer is yes!  The improvements we

made were a paradigm shift for the city.  The

crime rate dropped, the University

developed a new building for one of their

departments, and refurbished a downtown

building into a dorm.  Cafes and restaurants

opened.  People began to frequent the

downtown.  A cluster of artists moved into

one specific street, including the famous

artist, the photo-realist, Anthony Brunelli,

who became the public face of all that was

happening when he bought a downtown

building and created a world class gallery

that would show the likes of Lucian Freud.  The property values rose from average $100,000 to $900,000.  And at one arts crawl, the First Friday event, over 35,000 people attended!

While I never claim any credit for what happened in Binghamton, certainly I was the first cheerleader of the downtown's rebirth that actually was doing something on a daily basis to improve our downtown and its culture, and I like to think my street shows had something to do with the creation of our art's crawl.


Abandoned building 
right across from 
gallery and studio



gallup logo svp.png

downtown logo, by SVP


After my success in Binghamton, I was driven to transform my hometown of Gallup, New Mexico, into an arts community.  Situated near several Native American reservations, our region boasts renowned indigenous artists like R.C. Gorman and Tony Abeyta.  Despite being a hub for Southwestern art production, Gallup remains overshadowed by its problems, including high crime rates and transient professional populations.  These issues hinder community investment and development.  With nearly half of Gallup's population being Native American, it's imperative to offer a positive path forward, especially given the historical trauma of colonialism and prevalent social challenges.  The transformation I envision isn't just for the town itself but as a beacon of hope for those navigating difficult paths.

There is also a tradition of Southwestern towns becoming known as cute artsy towns, some with viable art markets, and others less so, but still robust enough to keep their galleries open.  Santa Fe, Durango, Sedona, and others have become destinations, whereas through our reputation as being the "most dangerous town in New Mexico" our town is not a place people want to visit, but simply pass through, utilising our many hotels at best. 

In addition to producing famous Native American artists, Gallup has an old art scene.  Starting in the late 1960's.  And by the time I left for NYC in the mid 1990's, a large group of international artists and other non-native artists from the USA who were well known, getting well known or trying.  Sebastian Picker is the biggest of our artists who lived here during my early years in Gallup, and was one of my mentors.

If I could help Binghamton NY, could I help Gallup too?  The answer is no!



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