Briefing:
  • Flamenco will come to the Downtown core as a Barelas studio ups stakes
  • The Q & A guide to Spirit Station, a forthcoming immersive art exhibit at the Rail Yards
  • New photos from inside the Rail Yards
Flamenco will come to the Downtown core as a Barelas studio ups stakes
Flamenco Works will move to 506 Central SW, once home to a hookah bar called the Bubble Lounge that seems to have closed about five years ago. In recent times, the building was known mainly for having the first 49 digits of pi posted above the entrance.
In a move that promises to bolster the Downtown core's growing bent toward the arts, Flamenco Works, a Barelas studio, will set up shop in an empty storefront across from the 505 Central Food Hall in the coming months.

The organization got the keys to the building in February, executive director Jesús Muñoz told DAN, and anticipates offering classes there in the fall after making a series of improvements to the floors, electrical system, and plumbing.

Once a three-phase renovation is complete, the new location will feature about 4,500 square feet of space divided between two floors, about 1,500 extra square feet over the current Flamenco Works location adjacent to the Country Club Market at 10th and Coal. Muñoz anticipates the organization will not fully move out of its current building for another year.

Flamenco Works is primarily a school offering dance classes to children, but the move to Central will allow for more and bigger performances open to the public, possibly even through the KiMo Theater, added Amalyah Leader, a lead organizer and instructor at the organization.

"I think it's going to be an enormous shift," she said. "I think it's going to allow us to reach a lot of people."

Flamenco Works will own the new building outright. It was donated to the organization by Jared and Laurie Tarbell, the couple behind the Levitated Toy Factory (7th and Silver). Jared Tarbell was a co-founder of Etsy, the online crafts emporium. The couple did not return messages seeking comment.

The move is just the latest in a series of arts-related ventures coming to the Downtown core. The National Institue of Flamenco, which is based in Sawmill and is separate from Flamenco Works, recently acquired the building near 2nd and Gold that was home to the Hartford Square restaurant and in the long term hopes to use it as part of its regular dance programming (DAN, 10/7/20). And back on Central, the Kress Building is set to turn into an arts hub later this year (DAN, 2/24/21).
Spirit Station is coming to the Rail Yards, but what is it exactly? We have a Q & A guide.
The project combines fantasy, local history, and a "bar car." (Illustration by Spirit Station)
What's the short version of what Spirit Station is all about?
The project, which is set to take over the Pattern House at the Rail Yards, is an "immersive" art installation combined with a craft distillery tasting room operated by Wells Park-based Still Spirits.

And what is immersive art?
Think of it this way: If you go to the Albuquerque Museum, you'll walk around a fundamentally normal room with discrete works of art on the walls that you can choose to look at or not. With the immersive style, the art takes over the entire room, and basically everything you can see, hear, and touch is part of the experience. Meow Wolf's "House of Eternal Return" is a good example of this, as is "Factory Obscura" in Oklahoma City and a global hit exhibition that involves essentially expanding Van Gogh paintings to every inch of the floor, ceiling, and walls. The Electric Playhouse is also cut from the same immersive cloth. Though hit hard by the pandemic, the concept has enjoyed an explosion of new interest and popularity in recent years.

What will Spirit Station's particular angle on all this be?
Many of the specific components have yet to be hashed out, but the overarching concept centers around a supernatural steam engine called the Spirit of Albuquerque that, in the lore of the exhibit, has a long and legendary history at the Rail Yards. Michael Wieclaw, the proprietor of Metal the Brand (located at El Vado) and a lead organizer of the project, picked it up from there at a recent neighborhood presentation:

Upon closer examination by yard workers, it presented itself as a train like no other. It appeared as though it had been built across many eras. Ornate etching, unfamiliar lettering, organic shapes, and functional design all converge into its singular ineffable form. And yet the most mysterious quality of the Spirit of Albuquerque was the feeling of its presence, a relief similar to meeting eyes with a loved one or making acquaintance with a stranger that already feels like a friend.

Not exactly a crisp and linear concept there.
True - and organizers freely admit that. On the other hand, infinite realms of imagination are rarely easy to explain.

So it's a fun fantastical adventure with alcoholic beverages?
Sure, but Manuel Montoya, a UNM professor and partner on the project, is hoping that there's more to it than that when it's all said and done. He's a big believer in the power of magic and fantasy helping societies deal with their issues, citing the wholesome lessons of Sesame Street as just one example. By incorporating the history of the Rail Yards and the surrounding neighborhoods into the art, he reckons, the installation will help Albuquerque understand itself just a little bit better. (But the alcoholic beverage bit is pretty straightforward.)

What's the timeline?
There's a lot to do with the building, including some additions that will expand its overall size. Making the exhibits will take time as well. But as for actually visiting the finished product, Wieclaw allowed at a recent presentation that the "end of 2022 was looking good."
New photos from inside the Rail Yards
There's a lot besides unusual art projects going on at the Rail Yards these days, so when city spokesman Johnny Chandler offered to take us on an inside tour recently we jumped at the chance. Here's what we saw: 
You may have seen drone footage of the new ultra-white TPO roof on the Tank Shop, but underneath it is a brand-new layer of wooden decking.
From ceiling to floor: Much of the original Boiler Shop floor was made out of wood blocks treated with creosote, a surface that was both easy to replace and more comfortable to walk on than concrete. (Though as Chandler found out above, the treatment sticks to your hands pretty thoroughly.) Workers have removed about 30 pallets worth of the blocks. The plan is to stash them for the time being and perhaps do something with them at a later date.
Crews clearing debris from the Boiler Shop floor. The old roof has been removed and a new one is on the near-term agenda.
The general idea with Rail Yards buildings is to get them to a "cold shell" stage that is secure, up to code, and reasonably accessible to utilities, but not completely finished to the specifications of any particular future tenant since that's all very much up in the air anyway. The Flue Shop is a bit of an exception. There, crews are turning it into a "warm shell" complete with heating and cooling systems. Above, we see the shop's new sprinkler system and some of the electrical conduit.
Once upon a time, the Rail Yards was a completely self-contained operation when it came to utilities. Since that's not practical anymore, the city has been working on bringing all manner of sewer, water, and telecom lines into the heart of the property, a project that involved some recent construction detours on 2nd. Above is the concrete pad (location diagram) poured over many of those new lines.
Downtown Albuquerque News covers greater Downtown, which we generally define as the area created by I-40, the Rio Grande, and the railroad tracks. We publish weekdays except for federal holidays. If someone forwarded DAN to you, please consider subscribing. To subscribe, contact us, submit a letter to the editor, or learn more about what we do, click here. If you ever run into technical trouble receiving DAN, click here.
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