KiMo Theatre in Albuquerque repaired exterior damage sustained during the George Floyd protests and changed the operation of its art gallery.
The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t ignore Albuquerque’s historic and iconic KiMo Theatre. The circa-1927 building temporarily closed its doors during the first lockdown in March 2020. But a City of Albuquerque official says that the time off has been productive for the KiMo.
“The pandemic was sad, but it was also a blessing in disguise,” says Bree Ortiz, community events division manager. “Repairs, cleaning that hadn’t been done in so long—we took the operational money we weren’t using for events and used that [for repairs].”
Ortiz says that crews replaced the theater’s glass windows, which were shattered during the June 2020 George Floyd protests. They also installed new perforated shutters for additional safety and security.
Inside the auditorium, old gum and ancient popcorn were removed. There’s also a new stage floor, a repainted proscenium arch, a tidied backstage area, and new TVs in the lobby. All seven of the KiMo’s roofs are going to be replaced, according to Ortiz.
Ortiz adds that she hopes the KiMo will reopen in October 2021, but building materials may be delayed.
There have been rumors in the art community that the KiMo art gallery, long a space for community artists to exhibit a body of work, will close for good. Ortiz, in multiple interviews with Southwest Contemporary, contradicted the speculation, saying that “local artists will still show their work there, but there would no longer be curated shows.”
Ortiz, who pointed to the current call for artists on the City of Albuquerque website, explains that she, the deputy director of arts and culture, and other jurors will judge the proposals. They’ll select one artist to display artwork for six to eight months. Afterward, city officials will decide the next steps for the KiMo gallery.
Ortiz explains that though the city owns the KiMo, it’s “a rental venue for other people’s events, not city events. The events are ticketed through a third party so the public cannot walk in without a ticket,” she says. “That is why we changed the operational nature of the venue as there are not traditional hours and unlimited access.”
The KiMo Theatre, named by a former governor of Isleta Pueblo for a mountain lion and dubbed an “opulent Pueblo Deco movie palace” by Atlas Obscura, functioned as a grand theater for the arts for many years. By 1970, it had fallen into decay and showed adult films, according to multiple websites and an archival newspaper advertisement. The City of Albuquerque purchased the property in 1977 and eventually renovated the building in 2000. It has since showcased classic movies as well as live performances of music, dance, and theater.
Disclosure: The author of this story participated in a three-person show at the KiMo art gallery in 2011.