In 1978, Albuquerque became home to one of the first public art programs in the country. The art, which is on display at the Albuquerque Sunport and throughout the city, enlivens alleyways and bustling boulevards. Downtown alone boasts 15 pieces of public art—from the Gilberto Guzman mural The Harvest to the Jake Lovato sculpture Holocaust Memorial.
What is the difference between graffiti and a mural?
Murals: Painting, spray art or mixed media that has been arranged between the property owner and the artist. In most cases the art is owned by the property owner, the license by the artist, maintenance is either arranged by a local mural arts organization or the property owner, and it is the owner’s duty to contact the artist in case touch-ups are needed. If the artist cannot be contacted or gives permission for the owner to hire another artist they may do so. Any representations of the art (like postcards) sold by a third party without the artists’ permission or compensation is illegal. Mural artists make a career of doing mural art because most of their work is commissioned.
Graffiti: Spray art done with as broad an array of motivations as murals, but most often not done with the permission or agreement of the property owner. In some cases there are areas that have been somehow designated for graffiti. Most works of graffiti have some measure of artistic merit. Graffiti artists range greatly with their motivation and expectation in terms of making a living – they can be anonymous, humble, or ego-maniacally leaning. Careers can stem from their graphic abilities, but outdoor commissions aren’t the norm.
--- Grass Routes Travel Directory
There are murals scattered throughout Albuquerque and maps are available online.
Most of the murals are downtown, near Central and Second Streets. Others are located on Central Avenue, in the Nob Hill District near the University of New Mexico. While the maps can be helpful, I recommend walking or driving around, as many of these murals are on obscure streets, tucked away in alleys or parking lots.
If you will be driving around the downtown area looking for these, it is best to do so after 5:00 PM, on a Sunday, or early on a Saturday morning. That way, you can easily find a place to pull over and park. You also won't have someone riding your tail, as downtown is very busy during the workday.
The murals you see in Albuquerque are part of a long tradition of mural production in New Mexico. All along Route 66, you can find incredible murals. Check out my page on the Tucumcari Murals to see some other examples.