Local artist hopes to spark change with interactive art exhibition

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – An event is honoring lives and bringing the community together to fight for change. 

“Suicide, gun violence, fentanyl. I mean, fentanyl is killing our people, when I say our people, I’m not talking about myself as a Chicano, or a Latino – I’m talking about New Mexicans,” said Gerald Lovato, a local artist. 

It’s a conversation Lovato is hoping to start with his art. He knows all about loss — his nephew was killed at just 16-years-old in a drive-by shooting last year. 

“He was such a good kid, a little star athlete, with dreams of playing football,” said Lovato.

The death of his nephew happened just a year after his father, Lovato’s bother, was murdered.

“I was born into a cycle of addiction. All of my family were drug addicts and I had to fight to get out of it,” said Lovato. 

Fighting to find a way to cope with grief, and in some cases, guilt.

“I was his protector,” Lovato said. “It felt like I had let them down, and it’s just destroyed our whole family.”

It’s what brought him back to art and to the reality that he is not alone. Now, his nephew’s painting sits beside a handful of others showing gun violence, suicide, drugs –  all no longer with him. 

“I want my work to be the catalyst for these conversations because these are tough conversations, but we need to have them because our people are dying,” said Lovato. 

It’s what inspired Lovato to display his art for others in a pop-up exhibition called “Burque Unite.”

A place for families to come together to celebrate life, and join the fight for a better Albuquerque. The event will have resources on tap, food, and conversation.

“It’s an important topic, especially here in Albuquerque and the rest of New Mexico. So to be able to host this and be part of the conversation is important to us,” said Monica Bencomo, Homewise community development coordinator. 

Lovato is hoping the community comes out and brings some of their own pictures and stories to build on a celebration of life installation.

“The community members will bring ofrendas, photos, flowers, and candles. We want them to participate,” said Lovato. 

Burque Unite” will be held Oct. 29 at the Opheum Community Hub from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.