April Freeman’s office is filled with artwork done by students. Her somewhat organized desk is set up so only she knows where everything is. Sticky notes cover the bottom of her computer. They say things like, “I Love you April,” and list random numbers that are sure to be important.
Freeman is the program director for Warehouse 508, Albuquerque’s youth art and entertainment center, located in the downtown area on First Street. She’s been working for the non-profit arts center since it first opened in September 2009.
She does the tedious work like scheduling events, overseeing and hiring interns, book keeping, and making sure there is funding for art programs and extreme sports retreats, all of which help keep the Warehouse alive and running.
On a recent day, she enjoys her lunch along with the other staff at the Warehouse 508.
“Today we (the staff) grilled lunch on the patio. It was pretty awesome,” Freeman said.
Freeman finishes her BBQ pork ribs and gives New Mexico News Port a quick tour of the kingdom, a place many youth over the years have learned to call their second home.
Walking into Warehouse 508, your eye automatically is drawn to the artwork posted on the walls of the “clubhouse,” the performance area of the Warehouse. Each painting is unique: some are portraits, others are abstract pieces and all of them have a different style.
Down the hall from the front desk is a room full of Mac computers the staff calls the “Mac Shack.” Here, students work on creating flyers for upcoming events, using Photoshop, or making media digital art projects.
In the very back, there’s a studio where young students are able to record their poetry or raps.
Entering the actual “Warehouse,” you see skate ramps and poles. In the corner, there’s storage filled with ski and snowboarding equipment.
The Warehouse offers a space for extreme sports like skateboarding, scuba diving, skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing and biking. In partnership with New Mexico Extreme Sports, the Warehouse takes students on skiing and snowboarding trips throughout the year at affordable prices.
Along the outside wall of Warehouse 508 there’s huge mural created by a collaboration between the youth in 508’s mural arts program and local artists. The goal was to repaint the masterpiece for the “Heart of the City”project. The mural is visible from the bridge on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue heading west towards downtown and Second Street.
Warehouse 508 offers alternative art classes that teach techniques not found in your typical arts curriculum. Classes are $50 a semester, but there’s scholarships for those who can’t afford the fee. Some programs focus on music, like “Rock-Star,” a program that offers rock lessons in guitar, drums, bass and vocals. Students can also attend fashion classes. One class shows students how to be resourceful by creating new fashion trends with old recycled material. The Hip Hop classes offered by the program, such as “Enter the Cypher” Break Dance Class, are especially popular. There’s also DJ 101, The Art of Rhyme, and Mural Arts, a novice class for graffiti and mosaic arts.
Freeman has pushed for the Warehouse to keep offering classes that normally wouldn’t be available in a standard arts center. Warehouse 508 has reached many youth over the years and a lot of these “graduates” from 508 programs still express gratitude for what the Warehouse does.
“I got a phone call the other day from this girl who used to come here a couple years ago and now she moved to Maryland; she’s a college student and she was like ‘There’s no place like Warehouse 508,’” Freeman said.
“It’s really cool to know that they [past students] feel like this place is special to them; they remember it and they want to create environments like this wherever they go,” she said.
Although running the Warehouse is fun, Freeman says the stress of keeping the place alive can be overwhelming. Not only is Freeman a program director; she is a wife and mother who stays actively involved in the lives of her children Keiran Freeman and Ave Freeman. Both children are involved in programs at Warehouse 508 along with Freeman’s husband Zach Freeman who is a well-known solo artist in Albuquerque’s music scene.
“There are so many young people who don’t have a super strong family. They don’t have a lot of opportunities and I feel like I’ve given my children a lot of opportunities to be involved in their community, to be creative and to be amazing… It’s really exciting to work with other young people and to give them space to realize how amazing they are,” she said.
Before Freeman dedicated herself to the non-profit Warehouse 508, she studied journalism at the University of New Mexico. Born in Rapid City, South Dakota, Freeman moved to Denver for seven years before she moved to Albuquerque to pursue an education in broadcast journalism. Eventually she found Warehouse 508 and fell in love with the idea of creating a safe space for youth to pursue art.
“I was a young person, young artist with nothing to do and nowhere to go and 15 years later I found myself here at Warehouse 508 hanging out with young people who have somewhere to go so it’s pretty cool. I love my job.” Freeman said.
Passion of art meets passion of youth
Now Freeman works tirelessly on keeping the arts movement alive for young people in Albuquerque. She is excited for the upcoming projects and events at the Warehouse.
Those events include “The Rail Jam”, young snowboarders last chance to compete this season. NMX sports, along with staff at Warehouse 508, brings real snow to the middle of the city to set up the event. There will be prizes, music by young DJs and live entertainment happening April 14 at the Warehouse.
Other events include an art show and a program-wide showcase allowing all members to present their artwork, musical talents and dance routines.
“I feel like art is necessary. It reminds us of our humanity and reminds us of where we have been, where we are at, and where we’re headed. Artists are leaders. People say that seniors are the voiceless population but I really feel like youth is the voiceless population… giving young people a voice is really what we’re here to do and to teach them they can make a living as artists. Warehouse 508 really provides that space for young people to explore their interests through the arts and though extreme sports,” Freeman said.
Warehouse 508 is located on 508 First Street NW and is open Monday through Friday from 12:00 pm to 8:00pm.
Program Director for Warehouse 508
Majored in Broadcast Journalism at the University of New Mexico.
What do you think is the most interesting part of the innovation economy in ABQ?
“I think New Mexico’s artists, innovators and creative thought leaders are working hard to build a dynamic creative economy. My hope is that the ripple effect impacts young people in meaningful ways and improves circumstances for youth and our families. We’re continuously 49th and 50th in the nation for child health and well-being. Surely we can do better. New Mexico is vibrant and diverse; I’m inspired by artists and leaders in our communities every day. Art can be the driving force in creating lasting change. A game changer. And there are infinite possibilities but we have a long way to go.”
If you weren’t doing this job what would you be doing?
“I have no idea what I would be doing. I feel really lucky to have the opportunity to be involved with 508. Maybe events? More hot yoga, maybe teaching or real estate or media or telling stories.”