Hopeful Signs in the New Year

- January 3, 2012

“By supporting art, Santa Fe prospers...”

My last blog, posted at the very start of the New Year, included the words “hopeful signs.” I was referring to the arts in our country and, certainly, in Santa Fe. Well, this morning’s editorial in the Santa Fe New Mexican, bears this out. It quotes from an article and data in The Atlantic in which the co-authors  Richard Florida and Kevin Stolarick came up with the term "Location Quotient" (LQ), to determine the concentration of artists in a community in relationship to population. No secret here, Santa Fe tops the list with an LQ of 7.58; more than seven times the artists' concentration in most cities and No. 1 ahead of San Francisco (3.82) and New York (2.57), ranked at 2 and 3, respectively.

But the editorial’s headline was most significant: “By supporting art, Santa Fe prospers.” You see, what you do with the data and how it shapes our community, the body politic and so many other things far outweighs the data itself.

This is not the first time that economist and theorist Richard Florida has recognized the importance of the arts to Santa Fe as a vibrant creative economy. Throughout his seminal book, The Rise of the Creative Class, he points to the position of Santa Fe at the top of every list of cities in our population category and the importance of our position in the overall economic development model of the future. In fact, Owen Lopez, who recently retired as executive director the McCune Foundation, gave great credence to Florida’s data and commissioned what would become known as the BBER report for the University of New Mexico on the artistic health of the creative economy in Santa Fe – both City and County.

That data still speaks of the need to support the arts in Santa Fe, as do both the New Mexican editorial and The Atlantic’s article and data. Unfortunately, the support of the creative industries at the city, county and state level began to level off before the economic downturn and has taken a steep dive, since. To tell you the truth, I have seen the arts be among the first cuts during difficult times so often that I have almost become inured to the fact. We mount creative industry economic programs and then underfund or withdraw funding altogether after a period of time and we return to the bumper sticker economic development approach of “Support the Arts, Kiss an Artist Today.”

The New Mexican has cured my cyclical mood and response to this ongoing issue. The New Mexican has always recognized the importance of the arts to our overall economy, often writing editorials about individual organizations and what they bring to the economy and the quality of life of our community. But, with this editorial, they are urging us to “not just take their word for it,” but see what these respected authorities from the outside are saying.

But, I think the most important statement is the editorial’s headline, quoted above. Let’s hope the community, as a whole, supports this premise as we enter our second century of statehood this Friday.