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Community Conducts Intensive Dialogue Process Regarding Oñate Sculpture

Arts Board will review community recommendations and provide input to the City of Albuquerque

October 30, 2020

This summer the City of Albuquerque launched the Race, History & Healing Project (RHHP) in response to community concerns about the Juan de Oñate statue on the grounds of the Albuquerque Museum. The RHHP embarked on a months-long community-centered process to provide a space for difficult dialogues about our shared history and make recommendations for the future of the statue.

The City supported the community through these challenging conversations using three methods including: Community Dialogue Sessions with the participation of 241 people, a public survey with more than 1,200 respondents, and more than 100 individual in-depth phone interviews. The preliminary summary can be found at www.cabq.gov/rhhp.

More than 1,500 people provided input to the Project, and there was broad representation from the community in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, age, and location (complete demographic data will be available at the completion of the Project). In addition to input about the statue, participants shared insights about values, public space, land, heritage, education, history, and the role of community process.

"We launched the project this summer knowing that tensions were high and the community needed a place to have these hard conversations," said Mayor Tim Keller. "Any process like this that aims to bring people with different perspectives together will be difficult and complex, but it was also a powerful way to engage over 1,500 people, many of whom were part of the 130 hours of dialogue, because they care so deeply about our community and how we represent our diverse cultures and histories."

This was a powerful, complex and difficult process with many diverging opinions. The discussions were deeply emotional at times and meaningful throughout. During the process, a clear consensus about what should happen with the statue did not emerge, although more people favored not returning the statue to its original location, while others felt strongly that it should return. The process itself also enabled people with different perspectives to listen, be heard, and find some places of understanding and common ground.

Of the 1,290 survey participants, 53% did not want the statue to return to its original location, 36% did want it to return to its original location, and 11% had another idea or did not state an opinion. From 116 in-depth interviews, 63% did not want the statue to return, and 21% did want it to return, with 16% that had another idea or did not state an opinion. From the almost 100 participants who completed all three community dialogue sessions, 71% of participants did not want the statue to return, 9% did want the statue to return, and 20% had another idea or did not state an opinion.

"I'm thankful for this forum where we could come together and talk," an RHHP participant shared. "It worked for each of us to understand each other and not just come in with our rigid positions. The format gave us the opportunity to share parts of ourselves with one another, while also really making us stop and listen to other people. It wasn't just about my opinion."

The culmination of the process is resulting in recommendations that can be taken to the Arts Board who will then provide input to the City of Albuquerque.

When participants completed the three dialogue sessions, they were given the opportunity to join the Community Solutions Table, where they could weigh in on solutions for the Oñate sculpture. 51 RHHP participants committed to the Community Solutions Table, where they engaged in a thoughtful and thorough discussion over two days. The group was guided by professional facilitators contracted through the City to support respectful dialogue and work towards consensus-based recommendations.

The Community Solutions table recommends that the Oñate statue not be returned to the land at 19th & Mountain and that the land should be re-envisioned and/or re-contextualized. Options could include signage or an audio guide that provides historical context. The group also expressed a strong desire for continued additional public input and dialogue with the living artists Sonny Rivera who is Hispanic and Nora Naranjo Morse who is Native American. The Arts Board will review the recommendations from the Community Solutions Table on October 31 at 10 a.m.

After the Arts Board reviews the recommendations, those recommendations will be given to City Council for a decision.

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The RHHP is supported by 12 city employees within the Cultural Services Department and Office of Equity & Inclusion, 10 professional facilitators, and nine project advisors. The Dialogue Sessions are led by a group of professional facilitators contracted by the City of Albuquerque. They work with each other and independently from City staff to design, facilitate and implement the community dialogue sessions.