Chandeliers for the Hispanic Cultural Center
by Don Toomey

Renowned Albuquerque tin artisan Ted Arellanes (TR, Spring '97, p. 38-40) has recently completed a commission of traditional tin chandeliers, and other tin pieces, for the long awaited Albuquerque Hispanic Cultural Center.

This commission came about through one of Ted's workshop students, Linda Baca. She was instrumental in having Ted meet both Kathryn Minette and Michele Barela of the New Mexico Arts Division of the Office of Cultural Affairs. They in turn requested Ted submit a series of slides showing the range and scope of his tin expertise. They were especially interested in the tin chandeliers that Ted and his wife Ginny fabricated for the Lumpkins Ballroom of the Santa Fe La Fonda Hotel in the 1980s. Ted duly furnished them with slides of this and later work, and on this basis he was awarded the commission.

He was charged with designing a group of tin chandeliers in a design that would be reminescent of those fabricated during the New Mexico WPA period. After some research, Ted came up with a design prototype. This design is a spinoff of what the famous architect John Gaw Meem had designed for his buildings during the 1930s. Meem had utilized the Gilbert Iron Works in Albuquerque to fabricate his design pieces, which were characterized by his use of mirror panels. Ted's design went somewhat more traditional in that instead of mirrors he has incorporated glass panels with distinctive comb painting. Initial planning and design began in 1999, but has only been pursued full time during the first six months of 2000. The Hispanic Cultural Commission comprised a total of eight chandeliers (1 large two- tiered: five feet in diameter and forty inches tall; 2 medium-sized ones: four feet in diameter and thirty inches tall; and five smaller ones: three feet in diameter and thirty inches tall). In addition, Ted also fabricated four large (8' by 4') restroom mirrors, plus various tin switchplates, and lighting fixture covers. Ted had a small crew to assit him mainly in cutting out specific tin pieces, while he did all of the tin punching, comb painting on the glass panels, and the final assembly.

When queried as to how these recent chandeliers compared with those he and Ginny fabricated for the La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe some years ago, Ted reminded me that the La Fonda commission was their first large job. At that point they had never fabricated a chandelier, so for that commission they were actually developing their tin constructing technique and learning the craft as they went along. The present commission brought to the job a great deal more experience and refinement to his overall concept and tin work techniques. Ted added, "I have taken a good bit more time and care with this commission, than I might have done on previous jobs. Afterall, these chandeliers are going to be hanging there long after I have passed from the scene! So this commission offered me the opportunity to give something back to the community."

First published in Tradicion Revista, Volume 5, No. 3, Fall 2000.
Copyright 2000. May not be reproduced in any form without written permission.