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Las Cruces Designated an Arts and Cultural District in New Mexico 2019

The City of Las Cruces 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.

The announcement was made at a news conference on Monday, February 4, 2019, by Mayor Ken Miyagasima, District 1 City Councilor Kasandra Gandara, City Manager Stuart Ed, and Irene Oliver-Lewis, a founding member of the Las Cruces Arts and Cultural District Coordinating Council (ACDCC).

Councilor Gandara said, “I am privileged to announce that the New Mexico Arts Commission, New Mexico’s authorizing department for Arts and Cultural Districts (ACD), has announced that our city is the latest state-recognized Arts and Cultural District in New Mexico. and the first state-authorized ACD since 2016.”

New Mexico Arts and Cultural Districts are managed by an authorized MainStreet Program, which for Las Cruces is the Downtown Las Cruces Partnership. Las Cruces is now part of a small group of New Mexico cities that includes Downtown Albuquerque, Artestia, Gallup, Las Vegas, Los Alamos, Mora Plaza, Raton, Silver City, and Taos.

The process to become a state ACD is lengthy and includes specific regulations and guidelines. Glenn Cutter, city arts advocate and a member of the NM Arts Commission said, “Congratulations to the Las Cruces Arts and Cultural Coordinating Council for jumping through the hoops and dotting all the I’s to achieve this prestigious arts and cultural status.”

The process started in 2014, under the direction of Andy Hume, then the City’s Downtown Coordinator, with an Arts and Cultural Task Force that explored the process to create an ACD. The Task Force was anchored by the Doña Ana Arts Council (DAAC), Downtown Las Cruces Partnership (DLCP) and the City. The three organizations represent the required participation for a state authorized ACD - inclusion of a local arts council in the DAAC; a NM MainStreet Program through the DLCP; and the local city government.

The ACD Task Force re-formed in 2015 into a cross-sector, private/public 11-member ACD Coordinating Council (ACDCC) and began the process for a Las Cruces ACD.

The ACDCC researched other NM ACDs, national trends, and outcomes of other districts, and in September 2018 engaged consultants, SV Pratt Creative Strategies, Santa Fe/Las Cruces, to work with the ACDCC to develop a five-year plan for the ACD.

The consultants Sabrina Pratt and Irene Oliver-Lewis worked with the ACDCC from September 2017 to July 2018 in a community engagement process that resulted in 35 stakeholder meetings, a one-day open house at the Museum of Nature and Science and talked to approximately 300 people that resulted in 1,000 comments and ideas which became the foundation for the ACD Plan.

Mayor Miyagashima said, “This designation acknowledges the growth and development of the “creative economy” as part of the total aspect of economic development in our city. 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 2018 businesses include Little Toad Creek Brewery and Distillery, Zia Comics, MEW + Company, Cruces Creatives Makerspace, and the 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. 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. 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 Arts and Cultural District. They become the first creative economy industry to open in the Las Cruces ACD.

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:

  • $19,105,245 expenditures by the Arts and Culture industry in Las Cruces
  • 426 full-time equivalent jobs were supported
  • $10,596,813 event-related spending of services and goods, but not admissions
  • $700,000 revenue was generated to the local government

Oliver-Lewis and her colleague Sabrina Pratt from Santa Fe, with the guidance of the Las Cruces ACDCC, wrote the completed 5-year ACD Plan that includes four goals with 18 Action Plans and 68 strategies to be completed with a number of collaborators in Las Cruces, the county, and New Mexico State University. The four goals are:

1. Foster Economic Growth

2. Improve the Quality of Life

3. Honor and Promote Las Cruces History and Culture

4. Community Engagement and Implementation

The 78-page ACD Plan is available on the City website, Economic Development Department, Main Street Section, Downtown Plans and Studies.