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CityMaker Shares Empowerment and Self-Expression Through Dance With Youth at Wellness Hotel

Sarah Hogland-Gurulé in one of three creatives working on a variety of projects with the City of Albuquerque.

December 22, 2021 - Sarah Hogland-Gurulé’s time as a City of Albuquerque CityMaker is coming to a close, but the impact of the work she has been doing in the community, especially with youth and their families, will be felt long after her term ends later this month. It was after she helped organize Make Music Day, a daylong celebration at a local City shelter for families commonly known as the Wellness-2 Hotel, she learned there was an opportunity to provide programming for youth to entertain themselves in healthy, positive ways. The Make Music Day event was the first event that provided a safe outdoor space for resident youth to engage with each other.

Hogland-Gurulé was selected by the City’s Department of Arts & Culture as one of three local creative artists and artisans for the inaugural CityMakers program. CityMakers brings Albuquerque artists - and their creativity - into the public sector to support and develop projects that positively impact and inspire the community. This cohort has been working on collective and individual projects in partnership with a variety of City departments since February.

"Artists and creatives naturally bring innovative thinking to challenges and inspiration to overlooked opportunities," Dr. Shelle Sanchez, director of Arts & Culture, said. "We look forward to continuing the CityMakers initiative and are committed to working with the next group of creatives to develop projects that can serve our community."

Hogland-Gurulé has a background in dance education that has led her to sharing dance with women and youth who are incarcerated, pre-professional dance students, and youth in after-school programs. She has also taught dance intensively with CYFD at the juvenile detention facilities in Albuquerque for almost two years. That’s when she started to understand how she wanted to facilitate movement classes as a therapeutic form of expression.

“As a CityMaker I knew I wanted to create a dance program and share it with youth who face barriers in accessing positive outlets for self-expression and empowerment,” said Hogland-Gurulé. “Since I had started to forge professional relationships with the folks at the Wellness Hotel, I pitched the idea to the staff and they were all very enthusiastic about the idea and reiterated that the kids there could really use something to do when they're not at school.”

“I really believe that every person holds a unique brilliance and dignity inside of them that deserves to be expressed, witnessed, and celebrated,” she said. “I've learned that my job is to hold strong space for people to feel brave and encouraged to do that. My medium happens to be dance because in the 20 years of doing it, it continues to be the main anchor in my life.”

Hogland-Gurulé is currently teaching youth ages 5 to 18 staying at the Wellness Hotel creative movement and dance. She has co-teacher, Raven Bright, who helps by giving one on one attention to the students. Regardless of the exercise, she always encourages the students to take ownership of their movement and to feel pride in what they have created.

“I hope to continue to develop this program and share it with youth at the Wellness Hotel and perhaps other family shelters in Albuquerque and at low income schools,” Hogland-Gurulé said. “Many of the students' families have asked me if I'm going to keep having dance class because their children love it, practice the moves at home, and want to keep getting better. I hope to be able to make that happen because these kids deserve joy, rigor, physical and mental stimulation, encouragement, self-expression, community, excellence, and empowerment just as much as anyone else does.”

The City’s Department of Family and Community Services established Wellness Hotels to provide COVID-safe shelter for those experiencing homelessness. The Wellness-2 family shelter has been extended due to the unprecedented need, and provides shelter to an average of 300 people, of whom nearly 200 are children under age 18. The City contracts with local non-profits and the University of New Mexico to provide case management, housing programs and operations staff at the Wellness-2 family shelter.