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Art that creates a sacred space in Santa Fe Railyard

Somewhere in between Santa Fe and the nation’s calls for reform and reparations, a new altar in the Railyard is open for poems and reflections.

The O’Gah Po’Geh Community Altar, named for the Tewa moniker for the current site of Santa Fe, will be open to the public through March 23.

The altar, made of adobe and reclaimed and wild-harvested wood, has four sides oriented to the cardinal directions. Each side has a ceramic mask created by a local artist, facing in the direction of the ancestral homeland of each.

“The four directions represent so many things â€" different mountains to different animals to the stages of life,” said Savannah Ortiz-Junes, a contributing Diné and Ohkay Owingeh artist.

“For me the altar is a place to grieve the treatment of Black and Indigenous people of color. It’s a safe space for people who need some sense of security.”

Ortiz-Junes said the idea for the altar, a collaboration between the Earthseed Black Arts Alliance and activist group Walk the Talk Santa Fe, arose in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The installation took six days to complete. Under each mask, a local artist also contributed a poem or prayer.

“Our mission for this project is to serve as a spiritual and aesthetic beacon for healing at the intersection of the movement for Black lives, the fight for Indigenous liberation, and the safety and well-being of the Latine/Chicane community,” Tigre Bailando, the project’s lead designer, said in a news release from the Railyard Park Conservancy.

The work is installed in the space directly in front of the red rock wall’s corrugated tunnel and below the Railyard Park parking area.

“Especially now, public art is safe and accessible while a lot of museums are closed,” said Kathryn York, marketing director for the Railyard Park Conservancy. “Our goal is to give people that opportunity to engage with art even though so many other cultural institutions are closed right now.”

Artists are encouraging members of the public to participate with the project by leaving offerings, messages and prayers on the altar and by sitting with it to connect to their own depth of experience.

“As an immigrant, it’s always hard to grasp a sense of home/community in the US, but the altar shows the true spirit of what community means or could mean to me: namely people coming together to build, share and heal,” contributing artist Fei Xie said in the news release.

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