Local artist Anastacio "Mike" Rivera on Tuesday cemented his legacy on Airway Boulevard for all El Pasoans and visitors of the city to enjoy for many years.
A construction crew placed Rivera's art — 27 feet long, 8 feet tall, 5 feet wide — on the median, part of a $7 million I-10 Corridor Aesthetic Improvement Project to beautify the Airway interchange and place more public artwork in areas that will have the most impact.
Rivera's piece is made from weathering steel that forms "a rusted appearance when exposed to the elements," said Rivera, 30.
"Now that the sculpture stands in the Airway median, I feel vindicated in my lifelong efforts of creating art for art's sake," Rivera said.
Rivera and others have said that having art placed on Airway would draw the attention of people going to and coming from the El Paso International Airport.
It is one of first things visitors see about El Paso when they travel from the airport, said Vicki Scuri, who is spearheading the total beatification project.
Upgrades on the Airway interchange are expected to be completed by September. They include upgrading lighting, landscaping, painting and pedestrian improvements.
Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority officials said Airway is one of the interchanges in the 15-year project.
The I-10 Corridor Aesthetic Improvement Project includes plans to beautify the interchanges from Hawkins to Executive Center. The project is a collaboration between the mobility authority, the Texas Department of Transportation and El Paso.
The entire cost of the project was placed at about $170 million, but that figure may change in time.
Raymond Telles, executive director for the mobility authority, said that having an El Pasoan be part of a large-scale project meant the city was well on its way to promoting and growing local talent.
"It means a lot because it means, first and foremost, that we are developing expertise that we did not have here before," Telles said.
The concept behind Airway Boulevard was led by Scuri, a Seattle-based public art specialist.
She said in an interview in September that the idea behind artwork on Airway focused around flight and she said in an interview in September that the idea behind artwork on Airway focused around flight and community identity.
"We wanted to create structures that relate to the community and the environment they serve," Scuri said in September. "Everything we've done relates back to its uplifting image of movement and flight." Rivera's artwork resembles wings.
The interchange also will have a variety of illuminated vertical wind turbines with custom armatures and low, illuminated sculptures, Scuri said.
The turbines and light sculptures enhance the shoulders of the large walls that one sees at an overpass.
For the Airway interchange, Scuri had to work with local talent. El Paso's Museum and Cultural Affairs Department helped Scuri recruit local artists. Rivera was one of them.
"I am fortunate to have been selected to work with Vicki Scuri, MCAD and the city of El Paso," Rivera said. "I can now say with absolute certainty, 'Yes, I am a contemporary artist, and by modern socioeconomic standards, I am successful.' With this confirmation and steadfast resolve, I endeavor to create even more ambitious projects, all for the sake of art and evolution," he added.
- Luis Carlos Lopez, Reporter, El Paso Times