Revitalize Santa Fe’s Arts Economy

Update: Javier Gonzales was voted as new Mayor of Santa Fe on the evening of March 4, 2014. Look for new blog posts regarding our Santa Fe revitalization projects to help our economy.

The arts are proven to be essential to health and wellbeing of the human psyche and in Santa Fe the importance of art goes much further –  the arts are our livelihood, our identity, and our expression in the world. The importance of arts to Santa Fe is like the importance of oxygen is to our breathing. But in the past few years the arts have been suffering and there is a sense of feeling frustrated  as a community. Today is election day for a new Mayor of Santa Fe and if we want to reclaim Santa Fe as a strong arts center in the world, we need to elect Javier Gonzales.

Javier is creating a movement in Santa Fe. There is already an inertia for change and the art community stands behind him. This movement was created around his grass roots style campaign – the house parties and the conversations. Javier supports a city funded Santa Fe Arts Innovation Center where the community can become leaders in the arts in the world. Javier knows that young people need to be supported in Santa Fe in order for this community to thrive. Javier supports putting money into the local economy and knows that a healthy economy that supports its residence first will bring in more tourism. Javier knows that music and an active night scene is an important element to supporting millennial culture. He has also proven himself to be a champion for human rights and the environment. Both Patti Bushee and Javier have very similar platforms, but Javier is already proving he can mobilize the community. And I have heard time and time again from people who have worked with both Patti and Javier that if Javier is not elected Mayor, this inertia around change will be left by the wayside. In order for myself and people like me to really enjoy living here, Santa Fe needs to change and not become the sleepy retirement community that seems to be the obvious alternative.

How I Came to Support Javier:

Javier and Ethan meeting for the first time.
Javier and Ethan meeting for the first time.

I was invited to participate on Javier’s campaign as part of the Javier for the Arts committee by my dear friend Orlando Leibovitz. I have not been very involved in politics since the 1990’s when I lived in the Northwest, but I have lived in Santa Fe since 1999 and have seen this town take a serious downturn in the past few years. I decided it was either time to participate in politics or find somewhere else to live. Before deciding to join the Javier for the Arts committee, I needed to know that Javier was the best candidate for my endorsement. I like to speak honestly and with integrity and although I trust Orlando’s judgement, I needed to do my own research.

In November, I met Javier briefly at a house party and we hit it off immediately. Javier was very charismatic and personable, but that is not all that makes a good Mayor. He and I made an appointment to speak at his office. Three weeks later, I met with Javier. The first thing I noticed is that Javier really listened as I spoke. As one of the few  people who survived their late 20s, 30s. and now into my 40s in Santa Fe, I had more than a few suggestions for improvement. I listed off my ideas – increasing the minimum wage (again), supporting legalizing marijuana, cooperative housing for artists, funding for entrepreneurs and support for arts technology jobs. As I went through the list, one idea stood out – a city funded Arts Innovation Center.

The idea of a city funded community arts center is not a new one. Several cities in the United States have created arts centers to support the local economy. Los Angeles’ art centers offer courses, group exhibitions, initiatives for young people and hosts a variety of events. Oak Ridge, Tennessee has a community arts center that has been erected since 1968. I actual wonder how Santa Fe got this far without this idea coming to fruition as it seems like an important way to support our community.

Just like many cities in today’s economy, Santa Fe faces monumental issues with unemployment, increase in rents and people looking to move out of state for more opportunities. The entire State of New Mexico is experience virtually no job growth compared to neighboring states (1). New Mexico also has the fifth-highest number of people leaving the state (2). if its managed correctly, Santa Fe has the potential to become the place where people in New Mexico can go to find hope in New Mexico  and Javier has a good plan to make this happen.

Santa Fe boasts to be the third largest art market in the U.S. based on sales with over 240 artJavier for the Arts galleries and dealers in town. But ask local artists how things are going, like we did at the Javier for the Arts event, and you will hear things such as; 80% of all galleries showcase non-local art, frustration of not being able to sell ones work, lack of music and performance venues, artists who have galleries complaining that the market is pigeon holed and there is no room to make new kinds of work, that gallery sales are down and that the old models of selling art just aren’t working and that studio space is expensive and getting into a gallery seems near impossible.

New Mexico has numerous arts, film and new media programs in the colleges and universities. Yet the graduates of these programs are forced to leave the state in order to find employment. The youth of New Mexico are leaving the state. All of New Mexico lacks an arts and technology economy that can support the number of people seeking jobs in these fields. With added support of the Arts Innovation Center and the economic development plan for arts and technology businesses to relocate and start up, it would encourage those recent graduates to come to Santa Fe. New Mexico would retain its educated youth, people would get to live near their families, and Santa Fe will once become the driving center of arts and have a thriving youth community just like the tales of lore that so many of us have heard about from those who moved to Santa Fe in the 70s and 80s.

Getting to know Javier in these past few months has made me want to be engaged with Santa Fe and help move Santa Fe forward. In order for Santa Fe to change it will take groups of people from the community to be engaged. Through his campaign, Javier has already begun this engagement with the forums and house parties. I have seen people who work in the same fields come together who have lived side by side for years and had never met before. I have seen groups of people discuss problems and possible solutions to make Santa Fe a better place to live. and Javier listens and he engages. People are coming together and looking towards the future. It has been amazing to witness this movement, but it would be even more amazing to see it actualized. Vote for change.

One comment on “Revitalize Santa Fe’s Arts Economy

  1. Think I would like to hear more about improving the lives of children in New Mexico we are the lowest in poverty and hungry children as well as child abuse. There are a lot more important issues in the State of N.M. not just Santa Fe!

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