January 2015

New Mexico’s Creative Economy


A new study by UNM’s Bureau of Business and Economy Research (BBER) found that arts and culture, including humanities education and cultural tourism, support nearly 77,000 jobs in New Mexico, 9.8 percent of the total workforce, more than manufacturing and construction combined. The state’s museums, art galleries, libraries, performance spaces, festivals and farmers’ markets have a combined economic impact of about $5.6 billion. The report also found that the arts-and-culture industries have provided a lifeline for rural communities.

A thriving arts-and-culture sector attracts people and business investment. Jeffrey Mitchell, director of BBER and co-author of the study, in a speech last month to the Economic Forum, said that the full economic potential of New Mexico’s arts-and-culture sector has not yet been realized. The study offers 12 recommendations for making the state more competitive in the global market.

While New Mexico ranks above national averages in cultural-goods production and distribution employment, the state lags in creative fields such as media, design, advertising and software publishing. Mitchell said that the state is failing to leverage the opportunities those fields offer to create higher-paying, rapidly growing industries. Business-related training and education, he suggested, would be one way to impact this. He also recommended assisting arts entrepreneurs and investing in “things that are local, already existing here and looking at the opportunities for homegrown development.”

The state Cultural Affairs Department, in partnership with the McCune Charitable Foundation, is working to address some of those issues. The department is starting to create a “virtual social network” to help New Mexicans in the arts-and-culture industries share ideas and link to business professionals with experience in technology, marketing, tourism and other areas.


Creative Startups:

Dedicated to the Success of Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurs

Creative Startups (www.creative-startups.org), led by Tom Aageson of the Santa Fe-based Global Center for Cultural Entrepreneurship, is a business accelerator targeted at those who blur the lines between technology and the creative industries and are ready to grow their businesses.

Last year 12 people—about 20 percent of the applicants—were chosen for the first 90-day class, half from New Mexico and half from around the country and around the world. More than 90 percent of the participants’ fees are covered through grants provided by the National Science Foundation, New Mexico’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NMEPSCoR) and the Fleischaker Women Legacy Fund.

The curriculum was conducted online for its first three weeks. The entire approach reflects the creative process, design thinking and a passion for creativity. Aligned with mentors, aspiring entrepreneurs develop their branding, storytelling and leadership skills. They learn how to market, sell and test their products and look at various forms of potential financing, from venture capital to loans.

In October 2014, the group met in Albuquerque for a rigorous, five-day boot camp. Media kits were created for the entrepreneurs to help them grow and promote their startup. A pitch day brought together the program’s team, creative economy leaders and investors. The accelerator raised $50,000 in startup funds and expects to produce at least two more classes.


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