NEA Grant Supports New Signage Connecting Albuquerque International District to Historic Route 66

May 20, 2024 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Endowment for the Arts recently awarded 75,000 dollars to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the City of Albuquerque, and local art nonprofit Friends of the Orphan Signs to bring local artists and community members together to co-create a new illuminated gateway sign along Route 66 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The new sign, when completed, will help connect the city’s International District—which today is the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in the city— to the Mother Road.

The spark of inspiration for this project came from artist Sammy Yuen, who traveled through New Mexico in the Summer of 2023—funded in part by the National Trust’s Route 66 initiative—where he drew a series of images documenting the Asian American experience along Route 66. While most of his pieces were of existing places, one was an imagined neon sign that would bring light to a previously unlit portion of the of corridor, and better connect International District businesses to the vital tourism corridor.

The funds awarded to the National Trust and its partners will support a community-driven process to co-create the design for a new gateway sign. This project will build on existing city and community-led initiatives to expand public art to honor the identity of the International District by supporting community-led creation and vision for the sign in Phase 1 of the sign. The project team will leverage the investment in this design phase to fundraise for sign fabrication and installation. When complete, this sign will provide the opportunity for increased visitation and foot traffic as the Mother Road celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2026.

The Mother Road turns 100 years old in 2026—share your Route 66 story to celebrate the Centennial. Together, we’ll tell the full American story of Route 66!

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