New Mexico considers new state agency to highlight creative industries

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SANTA FE, N.M. — There is a proposal to establish a new state department focused on supporting a wide number of New Mexico’s creative industries outside of film and TV, like painting and photography.

“As we diversify our economy, we must not lose the heart and soul of New Mexico,” said Rep. Reena Szczepanski, one of House Bill 8‘s sponsors. “Instead, it’s time to embrace it, our creative industries.”

HB 8 would reportedly provide grant funding, marketing resources and workforce development programs for many creative businesses, except one.

“We’re leading the nation in our film programs, but this is about targeted investments to grow everything else in our creative sectors,” Szczepanski said.

It would include crafts like pottery, painting, flamenco dancing, music, writing and photography – and also sectors like architecture, landscaping, culinary arts and even video game design.

“The fact that we’re creating a division that celebrates this culture, that celebrates this art, that really maximizes this economically, it could almost be called the New Mexico division,” Sen. Jeff Steinborn said, the other sponsor of HB 8.

Steinborn said the department is following in the footsteps of the state’s Outdoor Recreation Division, which he helped create in 2019.

“It was also a big idea based upon a big sector in New Mexico that was just so natural to us,” he said.

A Bureau of Economic Analysis report shows outdoor recreation jobs in New Mexico increased by more than 18% after the department was created.

With more than 41,000 New Mexicans working in creative industries – and an already $5.6 billion economic impact – Steinborn believes that success can be duplicated.

“We’re talking about a powerhouse industry in the state,” Steinborn said. “This is going to be about helping small businesses, helping the artists, helping the nonprofit organizations that are trying to build capacity, and also supporting communities who are trying to create infrastructure that then supports the arts.”

The price tag will likely be the bill’s biggest hurdle. Steinborn and Szczepanski are asking for a one-time $65 million appropriation to fund those grant programs and projects.

“We have historic reserves, but we also have historic revenue, and a golden moment right now to invest in new job creation initiatives,” Steinborn said.

Track HB 8 during the legislative session.