Strengthening Santa Fe’s Creative Economy


Laura Carpenter



In April of 2012, Creative Santa Fe (CrSF) hosted a workshop on creative and cultural tourism with special emphasis on the downtown Plaza. Tension arose when a member of a long-term Santa Fe family and a city councilor expressed strong conflicting convictions about whom the Plaza needed to serve. The long-term resident wanted Santa Fe to be the center of the town’s activities as it had been while she was growing up, and the city councilor emphasized the importance of tourism for Santa Fe’s economy. Both valid points.


Then Eddie Friel, a visiting expert invited by CrSF to Santa Fe for the workshop, broke the tension. Born in Northern Ireland, Friel has spent more than 35 years in both the public and private sectors of the tourism industry in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. He is recognized as one of the key figures in transforming Glasgow, Scotland from a perceived decaying industrial city to a major tourist destination. As the first chief executive of Greater Glasgow Tourist Board, Friel developed the policies that helped transform Glasgow, once a world shipbuilding capital, into an arts and cultural center that has doubled its employment by shifting its focus from shipbuilding to tourism. Friel made such an impact on the local economy that he received designation as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, bestowed upon him in 2004 by Queen Elizabeth II for services to tourism in Scotland.


Friel’s tension-breaker was the statement that cities needed to concentrate on making their communities places that locals love. Tourists do not want to travel to see other tourists; they want to visit the spots that locals frequent. Everyone was in agreement. Friel spoke about the importance of pride within communities, and said that local pride can translate into making a city attractive for tourists.


Creative Santa Fe’s mission is the strengthening Santa Fe’s creative economy to enhance the quality of life for citizens and visitors through collaboration and innovation. CrSF is working to accomplish this by bringing together many of the great organizations and people that already exist in our community to solve complex problems and have fun in the process. One of CrSF’s major initiatives is the creation of an affordable live/work space for artists. CrSF has invited everyone to participate in the survey beginning on May 23 to determine what the center should contain. Visit or for details.


Another CrSF initiative is called Connect Santa Fe and works on two levels. One is a focus on infrastructure and the need for greater walkability in the downtown area, especially between the Railyard and the downtown Plaza. Scores of studies have proven that walkability is essential for vibrant community life and a sustainable economy. The distances in Santa Fe are short, but the sidewalks are often in disrepair, full of obstacles like telephone poles and fire hydrants—or the sidewalks themselves are simply missing. The city does its best, but the tax base in Santa Fe is not high enough to allow the city to get ahead of the problem. CrSF is working to bring attention to this issue and is endeavoring to develop public-private partnerships to work with the city.


Santa Fe is one of the oldest cities in the United States, with a unique cultural heritage and a unique built environment, but with a crumbling infrastructure and one of the most endangered rivers in the country. CrSF believes there are potential funders for Santa Fe outside the city if organizations in our community collaborate on projects and seek major grants for holistic solutions.


The second focus of Connect Santa Fe is the mapping of Santa Fe’s social and economic networks—in effect, learning who is interested in working, in what areas, and what they are seeking to accomplish. Despite the small size of our community, Santa Fe often has several groups working on the same problems while unaware of each other. By mapping the networks, CrSF hopes to identify and bring organizations together. In addition, by collaborating on marketing the excellence that exists in Santa Fe, our ability to attract tourists and conferences will be enhanced.


FantaSe Celebration – July 15

Creative Santa Fe is coordinating an event call FantaSe on Saturday, July 15, 2013 in celebration of the completion of the first phase and re-opening of DeVargas Park. FantaSe will begin at 3:30pm with skateboarders rolling to the park in advance of this year’s Rodeo Parade. The parade is taking a new route and stopping at the park to announce the upcoming Santa Fe Rodeo, parade participants and prizewinners. After the parade moves through, that block of DeVargas will be closed for the rest of the day and evening for celebrations that include skateboarding, seven bands, a sustainable fashion show, light shows, culinary treats and more, lasting until at least 10 pm. Currently there are almost 30 participating organizations (see sidebar).


Renderings of possible walkability improvements for the area between the Plaza and the Railyard will be featured at FantaFe, in addition to detailed visuals showing the possibilities for the entire Santa Fe River Park (Parque del Río), starting from Upper Canyon Road. The FantaSe name will continue to be used for a winter light/art/science/interactive/music festival starting in January, 2014.


In sum, CrSF hopes to inspire creative sustainable solutions for Santa Fe’s future development and believes that is the best way to attract tourists and visitors to our wonderful community in the Land of Enchantment.



Laura Carpenter is the creative director of Creative Santa Fe. 505.288.3539,,




FantaSe Sponsors

Avalon Trust

City of Santa Fe

New Mexico Arts Commission


FantaSe Partners


Axle Contemporary

August Muth and The Light Foundry

Center for Contemporary Arts

City of Santa Fe

Cowgirl BBQ

Currents New Media Festival

David Grey and Marco Lukini

Eldorado Hotel

Hutton Broadcasting


Meow Wolf

National Dance Institute

New Mexico Arts

Parks and Open Spaces Advisory Commission

Pocket Watch Press

Rodeo de Santa Fe

Santa Fe Arts Commission

Santa Fe Botanical Gardens

Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce

Santa Fe Community College

Santa Fe Culinary Academy

Santa Fe Opera

Santa Fe Railyard Community Corporation

Santa Fe Skate School

Santa Fe University of Art and Design

SITE Santa Fe

Sotheby’s International Realty, Inc.

Suby Bowden + Associates


Wade Wilson Art

Warehouse 21




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