• At new Downtown core digs, an institute of makeup trains students for film and more
  • After being born in a cable car, he had a full Barelas life - even in the North Valley
  • Apartment complex near Wash Tub looks on track for reopening
At new Downtown core digs, an institute of makeup trains students for film and more
Makeup for the silver screen is often ... different. From 2019, this student creation was part of a presentation made to a local branch of a theatrical union. Southwest Makeup Institute

Noël Dalton seldom wears makeup and for years didn't imagine herself teaching, yet she loves makeup, has made it her career, and in 2019 founded the Southwest Makeup Institute, spurred on by an internet-generated explosion in the field and in particular by Albuquerque's burgeoning film industry.

Dalton started out with a few students in her freelance makeup studio in northeast Albuquerque and in December moved to Second and Gold, assisted by a Downtown Storefront Activation Grant from the city's Metropolitan Redevelopment Agency. 

She works with a staff of four and class sizes are capped at ten. A wide variety of people have enrolled, including a scientist who formerly worked at Sandia National Laboratories. 

In its 85-hour course, the shorter of two, the institute prepares students for a range of jobs in the field, from staffing a cosmetics counter to developing a personal cosmetics line to doing makeup for brides and their attendants.

The longer 200-hour course adds preparation for film and television employment and includes assigning students to shadow makeup artists working in that industry. That nets students one-third of the work hours they must log in order to gain the union membership generally required for breaking into the field. 

For students aged 13 through 18 who want to explore the makeup world and perhaps consider it as a career option, the school offers shorter spring and summer break programs.

"I love the transformative nature of makeup," Dalton said. "I've seen it bring out a part of people that maybe wasn't in there before."

Teaching "just kind of fell into my lap," and "ended up being my niche," she said. "I love seeing that spark in people's eyes when they see there's something else out there that they could be good at."

Schools teaching makeup are common around the country, Dalton said. Some are large, and they often also focus more on related fields such as hair care. The institute, however, is the first makeup-specific educational program in the state, she said.

Dalton guessed that about 20 makeup artists currently work full time in film and television around Albuquerque, and she anticipates "a tsunami" of additional employment, particularly with the Netflix studio expansion at Mesa del Sol. (The NBCUniveral expansion in the Santa Barbara Martineztown neighborhood should open more doors for makeup artists as well.) 

The role of makeup in film and television is far more complex than its everyday uses. Makeup compensates for the distorting effects of camera work and lighting, conceals minor blemishes that would become major distractions onscreen, and of course, can completely change a character's appearance. In New Mexico, protection from the elements is another of its essential missions. 

"The desert sun for sure is serious business," Dalton said. "If someone gets burned on your watch, it's always your fault, especially on a film set."

Outside film and television, there is plenty of work in her field. For instance, she said, Santa Fe has become a leading market for destination weddings, nationally and even internationally.

The makeup industry has taken to social media perhaps more than has any other, with countless individuals launching ventures to teach, celebrate, and sell makeup. YouTube's top ten makeup channels have some 130 million subscribers. Established companies have used their social media presences to engage with customers all over the world. 

"Makeup is for everyone, especially these days," Dalton said  "It's more gender-neutral than it's ever been, it's been more inclusive than it's ever been."

Dalton said she chose her Downtown location, across Gold from The Acre restaurant, after a long hunt.

"Downtown chose me, honestly. I looked at locations all over the past year and a half, literally all over the city," she said. "The building had the look, what I saw in my dreams. It had high ceilings and beautiful lighting and way more space than I imagined."

Regarding the area's homelessness and crime issues, "I was willing to take the chance on Downtown,” Dalton said. “All business owners kind of view it as a gamble."

"We haven't had anything specific happen," she added. "It's just everywhere all the time. You have people under blankets sleeping in the sunshine as the sun comes up."

While humans invented makeup long before they invented cities or agriculture, schools teaching makeup were uncommon until recent decades.

"I'm self-taught. I used lots of books and lots of trial-by-fire training," Dalton said. "I did apprentice with someone, which is why we inserted the shadowing in the training." 

The institute has started accepting students for online instruction to make its programs more accessible to rural residents, and it plans to offer public talks during First Friday Art Walks with a focus on female entrepreneurship, a special interest of Dalton's that dovetails with her career experience.

"I'm a bootstrap female business," she said. "I have no investment from outside."

—By David Lee

After being born on a cable car, he had a full Barelas life - even in the North Valley
Benjamin Serna died January 6. He was 94.
When we read in this recent obituary about a Barelas native who somehow was born in a Los Angeles cable car, we figured it deserved some additional investigation. And we couldn’t have been more right.

It turns out Benjamin Serna lived a sort of classic early-twentieth-century Barelas life, and while he fought in World War II and later settled in the North Valley, he maintained close ties to the place for the rest of his 94 years.

Serna's grandfather worked at the Santa Fe locomotive repair shops (now known as the Rail Yards), rising from teenage coal shoveler to superintendent. Many members of his large extended family lived together or near each other through the early years in the neighborhood, daughter Theresa Natzke told DAN.

One night when he was a boy living with his parents on Santa Fe Avenue, he cried and wouldn't go to bed until they took him across the street to sleep at his grandparent's house. The boy never moved back.

"He made his choice," Natzke said.

Social life revolved around weekly get-togethers with neighbors who would take turns butchering a pig, goat, or cow.

"They would have a party, and then they would share out the meat," she added.

The smaller livestock were raised in yards, but Natzke has been led to believe that the cows were allowed to run loose in the bosque, a popular recreational spot for kids as well.

"They'd love to go down to play in the river," she said. "One time he got in big trouble because a cow ate his shoe."

In his teen years, Serna was often found at the Red Ball Café on Fourth Street, famous for its “Wimpy” burgers covered in red chile sauce, and at Polly's, which was known for fried chicken. At age fifteen, he was eating at a drive-in when he got word of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Some time after that, he left Albuquerque High School, never to return as a student.

"One day, he and a friend went to school and they walked into the classroom and it was all girls, and they said that was that," Natzke said. Serna lied about his age, joined the Navy, and served out the war in the Pacific theater. "He was very proud of his service to the country ... and as a Hispanic New Mexican, it was like earning his stripes."

Back home after the war, Serna took some business courses before joining the U.S. Postal Service, where he remained until retiring, having worked his way up to the position of manager of a local office.

He met Fedelina Ulibarri at a dance hall in Old Town. They married and raised their four children in the North Valley, but they took a little bit of the neighborhood with them.

"A lot of the men that my father grew up with, they all moved into a neighborhood, Meadow View," (near Rio Grande and Indian School), Natzke said. "We grew up on five or six streets with the people that my dad grew up with. It was like an offshoot of Barelas."

American Legion Post 72, which Natzke remembers as being originally located near Eighth and Santa Fe (it is now located at Central and 52nd), constantly drew Serna back to his old haunts.

"He was very active," Natzke said. "He had his post office job during the day, and then at night, he and his buddies were all bartenders." The legion post sponsored a Boy Scout troop, and as a young teenager, she got to accompany her dad on campouts, where she said she appreciated having so many boys around.

As for the cable car birth, it happened while visiting family members who had moved to California. Some of Serna's future aunts planned the train trip, but his mother was not the type of woman to let being seven months pregnant stop her from going along. Once in Los Angeles, she again insisted on accompanying her sisters on a shopping trip.

Labor came on suddenly and progressed quickly, and Serna was born on the cable car, without any complications or medical attention.

"Back then, everybody was sort of familiar with that sort of thing," Natzke said.

A nearby resident who happened to be on the scene ran to fetch a shoebox, she said, and the women put Serna in the box and took him to a doctor.

"He was very proud of the fact that he was so tiny, that he survived, that he got such a start in life," Natzke said, "He was very tenacious."

—By David Lee
Apartment complex near Wash Tub laundromat looks on track to reopen
An apartment complex on Eleventh Street just north of Central (map - photo) is presently boarded up but also slated to be rented out again following some electrical and plumbing upgrades, according to paperwork filed with the city.

Owner Susanne Wooldridge, of Woodland Park, Colorado, told the Landmarks Commission that her aim was also to "put security ... on doors/windows to keep out the homeless so we can move forward with renting."

City permit documents, meanwhile, suggest that new electrical service for nine units and a new water heater is on the agenda or has already been installed.

It's not clear when the complex will reopen. Neither Wooldridge nor her property manager returned messages seeking comment.
Downtown Albuquerque News covers Greater Downtown, which we generally define as the area surrounded by I-40, the Rio Grande, Av. César Chávez, and I-25. 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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