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The Loan Fund gets grant to help creative entrepreneurs in ABQ, Santa Fe

SANTA FE, N.M. — Recent research indicates that New Mexico hasn’t reaped the full economic benefits of its substantial arts community.

A new grant may offer some help in that regard.

The Loan Fund, an Albuquerque-based nonprofit community lender, has received a $200,000 grant to work in partnership with the Keshet Ideas and Innovation Center to “grow the entrepreneurial arts and creative community in Albuquerque and Santa Fe,” according to a news release from The Loan Fund.

The money comes from the Kresge and Surdna Foundations, which have joined to give out seven such grants to community lenders around the U.S.

“Artists are an important component of New Mexico’s economy; however, business credit is often difficult for these entrepreneurs to obtain,” The Loan Fund’s President and CEO Leroy Pacheco said in a statement. “The Loan Fund has a history of helping artists and art-focused nonprofits. This project will allow us to reach and assist additional artistic and creative entrepreneurs who want to start or grow their businesses.”

The Keshet Ideas and Innovation Center — established last year as an incubator for creative entrepreneurs — will introduce its clients to The Loan Fund as a funding resource. Both entities will offer the artists business-related training.

George Kenefic, The Loan Fund’s director of “enterprise empowerment,” said half of the grant will be used to issue loans to artists, while the other $100,000 will go toward educational programming. He said the partnership between The Loan Fund and KIIC brings together two entities with different areas of expertise.

“We’re basically upping our game here because neither of us could do this without the other,” Kenefic told the Journal. “It’s two parts: one, it’s enabling us to do what we couldn’t do individually (because) each organization is filling a gap in capacity that the other organization doesn’t have, and the sprinkles on the sundae here is the $200,000.”

Kenefic said The Loan Fund typically gets funding awards that it must repay, but this grant does not mandate repayment.

Recent state-sponsored research by University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business & Economic Research found that the arts and cultural industries, when broadly defined to include areas like cultural tourism and education, account for 9.8 percent of the jobs in New Mexico. But the report also notes that additional steps should be taken to realize the true potential of the local “creative economy.” Recommendations include making additional business-related training available for artists.