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Spaceport America Uses Art In Public Places Program For New Sculpture



New Mexico’s Arts in Public Places Program provides state funds for the purchase or commission of art at the site of capital projects. Projects receive one percent of the total of the capital project or $200,000, whichever is less. Spaceport America recently used this program to commission a new sculpture, worth $200,000.

The new sculpture located at the entrance of Spaceport America was created by Arizona artist, Otto Rigan, who says he felt very connected to the project.

“I’ve done lots of big projects,” Rigan said. “But I felt really attached to this. I group up in Roswell. The first words out of my mouth were ‘rocket ship’ when I was a kid. It’s true. I identify with the desert; I’ve always lived in the desert. I’ve lived all over New Mexico. I live in Arizona right now, but I just identify with the mission, I identify with space, I identify with the landscape. I feel like it’s my backyard, So, I love it. I just really liked being involved.”

Many people were concerned that the money for the art piece did not go to a New Mexico artist, Christine Anderson; Executive Director of Spaceport America says they followed the same process as every other Art in Public Places Project.

“Most of the time they put out a call for art anywhere in the world,” Anderson said. “And this one was virtually anywhere in the world, in fact it could have been galactic. We had over 400 applicants, and there was a panel of judges. I was just one of many on this panel. And then we had to select the one artist. So, the artist we selected actually lives in Arizona. But, He was in New Mexico, and he has a studio here as well, but again it was open to everybody.”

Anderson says she isn’t sure if the money could have been used to fund more than one piece of art, and that the decision was left up to the Cultural Services Department.

“They ran this program,” Anderson said. “And so it was really their call how to do it. And it was one piece of art for that price.”

The name of the sculpture is genesis, which Rigan says is symbolic of many things.

“It’s a name that implies something new, something beginning,” Rigan said. “Not something small that’s beginning, something big that’s beginning. And it’s ancient, really terminology, but it felt really current for this.”

He says he got the idea for the design after studying the limitations, such as needing to be able to see the Gateway building at the Spaceport.

“I wanted to find a form that was simple enough that it didn’t illustrate anything in particular,” Rigan said. “But was more kind of to it’s form. Uplifting, speak a little bit to the past, speak a little bit to the future.”

Video and a story about the creation of the new art piece is featured in the Gateway Gallery Exhibit.

Samantha Sonner was a multimedia reporter for KRWG- TV/FM.