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Transitioning from an elected office to running a nonprofit within a couple of months at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 was a “big shifting of gears” for Greg Smith.
But moving from the Las Cruces City Council to the Doña Ana Arts Council (DAAC), “connects in with a lot of what I think is important with Las Cruces and Doña Ana County going forward,” Smith said in a recent interview.
“I’m really happy to be here doing this,” Smith said. “The arts is very much a part of what I was trying to do politically.”
In addition to serving as DAAC executive director, he is also chair of the city’s Arts and Cultural District (ACD) Coordinating Council, which was created in 2015 to help develop arts and culture assets in downtown Las Cruces.
It was a busy and challenging first year at DAAC for Smith, as he helped guide the arts council through Covid-19 and its move to a new home at 250 W. Amador Ave. The move returned DAAC to the ACD, across the street from the historic Amador Hotel and adjacent to the site of the home built by Martín Amador (1836-1903), patriarch of one of Las Cruces’ earliest and most influential families.
“It all connects,” Smith said.
And the new location “is working for us in so many ways,” he said.
Like many other nonprofits, DAAC hosted online exhibitions, workshops and fundraisers online throughout 2020, and is looking forward to a return to live, face-to-face events as it celebrates its 50th anniversary of and the 50th anniversary of its signature event, the Renaissance ArtsFaire, in 2021.
DAAC also has a full lineup of in-person youth art camps this summer and other events are in the works.
Reflecting local history and their connections to space, engineering and agriculture, the arts present “a bright opportunity to have Las Cruces and Doña Ana County shine,” Smith said, and “take pride in who we are and what we are.”
The arts, he said, also offer great educational and economic development opportunities, he said, and can help keep local youth living and working “where they grew up.”
The arts are also “part of a larger community,” Smith said. They won’t necessarily bring a grocery store to a food desert, he said, but they are “part of the environment for those things to happen.”
With nearly $2 million in capital outlay funding, ACD has plans for wayfinding, lighting and unique transportation in the downtown area, Smith said. And the coordinating council wants to help with the development of performance venues, galleries and artists’ lofts that will attract artists and visitors to downtown and its neighboring Mesquite and Alameda Depot historic districts.
The challenge for DAAC and ACD, Smith said, is “How do we make ourselves both viable and integral to what’s happening in Las Cruces and Doña Ana County going forward?”
The Doña Ana Arts Council (DAAC) is currently planning in-person summer camps that will follow state Covid guidelines, DAAC said in a news release. The camps will include Career Art Path, Missoula Children’s Theatre and Opera Storytellers Camp.
Partial scholarships based on financial need are available for all programs.
Apply online at https://daarts.org/for-youth/.
Call DAAC at 575-523-6403. Visit the Dona Ana Arts & Cultural Center and office at 250 W. Amador Ave.