SANTA FE — New Mexico would establish a new economic development agency — backed by $67 million in state funds — to support artists and creative entrepreneurs under legislation introduced at the Roundhouse.
The legislation, House Bill 8, calls for a new Creative Industries Division within the Economic Development Department to oversee funding that could help with everything from gallery space to marketing and training.
House Majority Whip Reena Szczepanski, D-Santa Fe, described it as a “transformational initiative” that would amplify New Mexico’s strength in the arts and help diversify the economy. Half the funding would be dedicated to supporting the arts economy in rural and overlooked areas.
“We know there are creators in every community in New Mexico,” Szczepanski said in news conference at the Capitol, surrounded by musicians, artists and others.
She is co-sponsoring the bill with Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces.
The proposal offers an expansive definition of the arts. The division could support, for example, video-game developers, architects, furniture makers and chefs, along side more traditional artists working with wood, metal and ceramics.
About $2 million would be dedicated to operating the new division. The bill also calls for $65 million to go into a creative industries fund that would issue grants on a competitive basis to projects or programs with the potential to grow the arts economy.
Lawmakers — especially on the budget-writing committees — sometimes push back on attempts to create new agencies or stand-alone funds separate from the general budgeting process.
But Steinborn, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, said it’s appropriate to take some of the windfall generated by the state’s oil boom and dedicate it to growing another economic sector.
“We’re talking about a powerhouse industry in the state,” he said of the arts.
Rose Eason, executive director of gallupARTS, a nonprofit group, said there’s already strong demand for financial assistance that would support establishing classroom and workshop space, apprenticeship programs and redevelopment of a vacant lot into a gallery and retail store.
“This level of state investment in the creative industries would be game-changing for areas like mine in McKinley County,” Eason said.
A division dedicated to the arts economy, she said, would recognize its importance to New Mexico and make it easier for creative entrepreneurs to navigate state programs.
The proposal has been referred to two committees in the state House.