New Mexico’s Creative Economy
Recognition is growing of the nationwide importance of the creative economy. A recent study by the U. S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (released with the National Endowment for the Arts) indicated that the arts and culture sector contributed 3.2% (about $500 B) to the nation’s economy in 2011. A recent National Governors Association report on arts and the economy provides strong arguments for states to emphasize the growth of their creative sectors, not just for economic reasons, but also for improved quality of life and enhanced community development, including attracting new businesses . This report also makes clear that more and more states are focusing on their creative economies as a means for overall economic growth.
New Mexico has an even greater proportional contribution from its own arts and culture industry, with an estimated economic activity of about $3B (almost 4% of the state’s economic activity), not to speak of its impact on tourism, a $6B industry in itself. A New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs report estimated the total economic impact of arts and culture in 2005, with cultural tourism included, as $5.2 B.
New Mexico’s cultural assets and creative activities, and the people involved in them, are perhaps our greatest state-wide competitive advantage in growing our economy. That this is possible is evidenced by our already successful local creative economies. It is common knowledge that the Santa Fe/Taos art market is near the top in the United States. In 2004 Santa Fe alone had over $1B in economic activity from arts and cultural activities and businesses.
What is not so generally known is that Albuquerque ranks second among U. S. metropolitan areas in the density of visual artists (Santa Fe ranks first) and is an increasingly important art market in itself. Among the top ten metropolitan areas, Santa Fe ranks 2nd (behind Los Angeles) in the percentage of artists in the workforce (over 3%). Santa Fe also ranks 1st for concentration of Fine Artists/Art Directors/Animators, 1st for Writers & Authors, and 1st for Architects. Overall, New Mexico ranks 1st for the number of fine artists per 10,000 people. In addition to fine and other visual artists, New Mexico has a unique and culturally diverse set of creative people who contribute in many other arts and cultural areas.
Santa Fe and Albuquerque may be the bulwarks of New Mexico’s creative economy, but it is other communities–such as Roswell, Las Cruces, Taos, Silver City, Truth or Consequences, Las Vegas, Gallup–that are seeing fast growth in their creative economies and, particularly in some smaller communities, revitalization. What often characterizes these towns is a critical nucleus of interconnected museums, arts councils and cooperatives, libraries, galleries, history groups, historic preservation efforts (including the 22 Main Street programs in New Mexico communities), and arts and culture districts (six in New Mexico currently). Culturally healthy communities attract not only visitors but also new resident retirees who bring talent, energy and financial resources to help build the local creative economy.
For more information on the contributions of New Mexico’s creative economy, including local community studies, go to the “links” page on Creative Santa Fe’s website or to the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) web site (can also be found by using the Links below).