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Steinborn introduces bill to establish state Division of Creative Industries


“Part of what makes us the Land of Enchantment is because we are home to a rich diversity of artists, creatives, and cultural history that comprise the fabric of New Mexico,” state Sen. Jeff Steinborn of Las Cruces said Jan. 27 as he joined state Rep. Reena Szczepanski in Santa Fe to introduce House Bill 8, which would establish a Division of Creative Industries in the New Mexico Economic Development Department.

“With Las Cruces, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe all just named among the best places to live and work for filmmakers, we are seeing the dividends from smart, targeted investments in the arts and creative industries,” Steinborn said in a news release issued by New Mexico House Democrats. “The Creative Industries Division will expand investment in our artistic and creative assets to support new economic development opportunities.”

The new division will “support the growth of economic opportunity among the full range of creative industries outside of film,” the news release said.

“As we strive to diversify our economy, we must lift up the heart and soul of New Mexico,” Szczepanski said. “From flamenco studios; to potters and furniture makers; to tech, design, and architecture, this division will unlock incredible economic potential in our creative and cultural industries, creating good jobs and a larger global footprint for rural, tribal, and urban communities throughout the state.”

Following a similar model as the Division of Outdoor Recreation established in 2019 through legislation introduced by Steinborn, the goal of the Division of Creative Industries would be to spur job creation and local economic growth by providing grants, professional services, infrastructure capital, workforce training and business consultation to professionals and entrepreneurs in New Mexico’s creative fields, the news release said.

Aiming to spur statewide opportunity, House Bill 8 establishes at least 50 percent of funding appropriated from the division would be distributed to rural and underserved communities.

Today, New Mexico’s creative and cultural industry contributes $5.6 billion to the state economy and provides $2.4 billion in annual wages, House Democrats said.

“With rich legacies in the fine arts, design, crafts, cuisine, music, and dance, the creative industries are without a doubt an economic strength for New Mexico with incredible untapped potential to expand,” they said.

House Bill 8 lays out the scope of the division, proposing an operating budget of $2 million and a one-time appropriation of $67 million from the general fund to provide a funding pool to make targeted ongoing investments, the news release said.

“With targeted investments in this sector—similar to the successful investments that we have made in film—we can identify, enact, and scale the strongest ideas from all across our state, harnessing the potential that’s waiting for us in the minds and spirits of New Mexico’s deeply creative people,” said Lea Wise-Surguy, executive director of Cruces Creatives makerspace nonprofit.

“We often make the mistake of thinking that art and industry are mutually exclusive,” said Doña Ana Arts Council Executive Director Greg Smith of Las Cruces. “We too often make a similar mistake and exclude art from our dialogue about educating for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. House Bill 8 will help correct these mistakes. With ‘creative industries’ we see the natural place art holds in the cultural industry and its relationship to science, math, and technology. HB8 will firmly establish a powerful future for New Mexico arts and culture and the entrepreneurs of the future,” Smith said.

“I have been a practicing and professional theatre artist, producer and writer for some 40 years,” Irene Oliver-Lewis told the Bulletin. “Never in all these years have I been involved with such innovative and monumental legislation as HB8. A group of arts/culture administrators and artists from across the state researched the creative industries in the state, regionally, nationally and internationally for nearly two years. We took our research; knowledge of the diversity of New Mexico’s arts and creatives; and economic development to write the legislation. The passage of HB8 is a game changer for everyone working in the arts – small businesses, entrepreneurs, sole proprietors, and arts organizations. The bill elevates the concept of workforce creation and economic development in the arts for today and the future.”