LAS CRUCES – The City of Las Cruces announced Feb. 4 it has received “a major arts recognition that will bring creative economy benefits for arts and cultural businesses, workers and artists in the historic and original townsite of Las Cruces.”
“I am privileged to announce that the New Mexico Arts Commission has announced that our city is the latest state-recognized arts and cultural district (ACD) in New Mexico and the first state-authorized ACD since 2016,” City Councilor Kasandra Gandara said at a news conference.
The process of becoming an ACD began in June 2014, the city said in a news release, under the leadership of then-city Downtown Coordinator Andy Hume (now administrator of Las Cruces International Airport), when the city formed an ACD task force. An 11-member ACD coordinating council (ACDCC) was formed in 2015.
Santa Fe-based consultant Sabrina Pratt, assisted by Las Cruces arts advocate Irene Oliver-Lewis, worked with the ACDCC from September 2017-July 2018 “in a community engagement process that resulted in 35 stakeholder meetings [and] a one-day open house, and talked to approximately 300 people that resulted in 1,000 comments and ideas which became the foundation for the ACD plan,” the news release said. The city council adopted the ACD plan in July 2018.
The five-year ACD plan includes four goals (foster economic growth, improve the quality of life, honor and promote Las Cruces history and culture, and community engagement and implementation) that drive 18 action plans and 68 strategies to be completed by 2023.
“Our cultural community is so great, and our plan is so beautiful that we got approved in just four months,” Oliver-Lewis said at the news conference.
Oliver-Lewis said the ACD is “the essence, the substance, the heart of Las Cruces.”
Las Cruces joins Downtown Albuquerque, Artesia, Gallup, Las Vegas, Los Alamos, Mora Plaza, Raton, Silver City and Taos with a state-designated ACD, the city’s news release said.
“This designation acknowledges the growth and development of the ‘creative economy’ as part of the total aspect of economic development in our city,” Mayor Ken Miyagishima said in the news release. Having a state-authorized ACD in downtown and the Mesquite Street areas underscores the importance to all the existing arts and cultural assets and the new creative economy businesses that opened in 2018 and will open this year.”
Some of the businesses that opened in 2018, the news release said, include Little Toad Creek Brewery and Distillery, Zia Comics, MEW + Company, Cruces Creatives Makerspace and the city Visitors Center.
“To open in 2019 are four entertainment businesses at the Amador Project, three restaurants in the Bank of West/BOP Paribas building, and Rad Retrocade,” the news release said.
“A new game development company, Ganymede Games, will open its headquarters on the third floor of Bank of the West/BOP Paribas and will offer 51 new creative and administrative, high-tech, high-wage jobs [see page 51]. They are investing $1.3 million in offices and a studio on the corner of Main Street and Las Cruces Avenue, the center of the ACD. They become the first creative economy industry to open in the Las Cruces ACD.”
At the news conference, City Manager Ed cited a 2017 arts impact study, Arts and Economic Prosperity 5, by Americans for the Arts, on the economic impact of 29 Las Cruces nonprofits in arts and culture. The statistics show more than $19 million in expenditures by the arts and culture industry in Las Cruces; 426 full-time jobs were supported; $10.6 million was spent on event-related services and goods in Las Cruces, not including admissions; and $700,000 revenue was generated for local government.
The state designation is a recognition of “the power of the arts” in Las Cruces,” said ACDCC member Kathleen Albers, executive director of the Doña Ana Arts Council. “This has been a long journey. Here we are 11 years later; good things do take time when they’re done well. This is a great model of collaboration.”
“It has been a four-year project of love, passion, vision and the fact that dreams do come true over the years of working on this project,” said ACDCC Chair David Chavez.
The council issued a proclamation at its Feb. 4 regular meeting declaring February ACD Month in Las Cruces.
The 78-page ACD Plan is available on the City website, www.las-cruces.org.