GRANTS –Secretary Veronica Gonzales was in Grants last week for a community listening session.
The New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs Cabinet Secretary was seeking input on her department’s efforts.
A group of 15 citizens met with Gonzales for an engagement gathering on Sept. 21 at Grants State Bank.
Speaking of New Mexico, Gonzales said to the group, “We are culturally rich and then comes art. And art enhances our rich culture.”
Gonzales said New Mexico should be promoted as a culturally rich state. This is something that is very unique, according to the secretary.
“Maybe a state such as Louisiana can come close to how culturally rich New Mexico is,” she explained. “However, I don’t even think that is a fair comparison. New Mexico is special.”
Several interactive work sessions were completed during the meeting with Gonzales. Participants included Cibola Arts Council Director Robert Gallegos and, Economic Development Director Eileen Yarborough, former Pueblo of Acoma Governor Lloyd Tortalita, Acoma judge Randolph Collins, area artist Ava Peets, and history writer Paul Milan, along with several others.
“It is great to see that the state is interested in public input,” said Milan toward the end of the meeting.
One thing stood out at the end of the meeting, collaboration.
Despite the fact that participants’ overall consensus was there has been improvement, the need for more collaboration is needed – between the state and the towns, within the towns themselves, between the art community and the governments, local and state, etcetera.
After four visits to other towns such as the one in Grants, Gonzales said, collaboration has been the primary concern.
“We need to share ‘best practices’,” Gonzales emphasized. “We need to work together. Maybe a statewide newsletter is one answer.”
It has been estimated, according to a recent study by Gonzales’ department, art pumps $3.3 billion into the economy statewide, supports 59,448 jobs, impacts $952 billion on salaries, generates $246 millions in tax revenues, and, contributes $1.35 billion into the state’s tourism industry.
“It is incredible,” Gonzales said, “Art is very important to the state’s economy. Bottom line is, it is about sustaining our community and our economy. Culture is key, and with culture comes art, and New Mexico is culturally rich, therefore, art is one of the state’s greatest assets.”
Gonzales will continue to travel to other communities as she seeks more input. Ultimately, her department is expected to send out a press release on the findings from the series of community engagement gatherings.