ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The arts and culture provide more jobs for New Mexicans than either construction or manufacturing, according to a study released Wednesday by the University of New Mexico.
Altogether, about one in every 18 jobs in the state is in arts and culture, the report said.
“This is big business,” said Jeffrey Mitchell, director of UNM’s Bureau of Business & Economic Research. “These are not small numbers.”
Mitchell released the study and briefed civic leaders gathered at the National Hispanic Cultural Center on Wednesday. The state Department of Cultural Affairs paid for the study, which cost about $190,000.
Mitchell urged policy makers in New Mexico to recognize the importance of arts and culture as an economic force “that’s bound to grow,” even amid the new economy following the Great Recession.
A rich arts scene isn’t just a perk of a thriving economy, he said, but a precondition that makes a community attractive for entrepreneurs and others who want to live and work in creative places.
Mitchell encouraged state and city leaders to establish a business center to help artists and creative professionals with accounting, marketing and other services. A website or similar platform to improve communication and networking among artists and creative businesses would also help, he said.
He also recommended enforcement of laws that prohibit the sale of counterfeit Native American goods.
Artists themselves, he said, need to see their business as something that’s not just a competitive “zero sum game” in which success comes at the expensive of someone else.
“You need to start playing together. That’s the bottom line,” Mitchell said.
The report says more than 43,000 New Mexicans work in arts and cultural jobs, an amount roughly equal to the construction industry, which employs 42,000, and more than manufacturing, which employs 29,000.
That’s under a fairly narrow definition of arts and cultural jobs, Mitchell said. It includes artists and art dealers, in addition to people who work in museums, libraries, media, architecture and publishing.
Mitchell said the arts economy isn’t just confined to Santa Fe and Albuquerque.
“It is for many people in rural areas a safety net,” he said.
Mitchell said the Downtown Albuquerque “Innovation District” that university and local leaders are working on holds promise as a place where scientists, entrepreneurs and creative people mix and work together.
Mayor Richard Berry said the goal is “to create a beehive of innovation.”
“I think the arts are one of the key components” of economic recovery in Albuquerque, the mayor said.