Exciting things happening here in downtown Albuquerque! This week the Downtown Action Team brought in a Resource team to meet with several breakout groups including artists, business owners, planners, architects, educational groups, marketers, media, non profits, etc. to discuss planning of the recently state designated Downtown Arts & Cultural District. I participated in two of these breakout sessions, the gallery owners/educational groups/museums and the artists/artisans groups.

Tomorrow at 11:45 am in the Box theater at 114 Gold Street the resource team will deliver their findings after 3 days of fact finding, touring the area and meeting with locals. I am very interested to hear what they have to say. Some of the points that came out in both meetings I attended were related to downtown issues such as parking, safety and family related things to do. In both groups, the main issue that came up was Albuquerque's identity as an arts destination. What everyone basically agreed on is that we are a diverse city with an immense array of activities, festivals, music events, art galleries, museums, etc etc. Sometimes to the point of too much going on all at once. We have a huge population of artists, musicians, poets, theater and dance. Problem is these groups don't cross lines much, we don't talk to each other enough. How do we change this? I am an artist married to a musician, so we cross lines quite a bit, but what about all the other groups?

Something that came up again and again is the fact that Albuquerque seems to be living in the shadow of Santa Fe. We need our own identity separate of Santa Fe! We need to stop focusing on Santa Fe and knock that chip off our shoulders. One thing that was brought up and agreed upon by most is the fact that Santa Fe is a more international arts city, while Albuquerque is more populated with an arts community that LIVES and WORKS in New Mexico. However, that group is also diverse as we not only have natives to the state but people who have moved here from other parts of the country to participate in our arts scene.

There are so many factors to the arts scene in Albuquerque, so many things breaking us into different groups. How do we bring the Albuquerque arts & culture together? How do we get the word out that we need to work together to make this a GREAT place for the arts? I believe Albuquerque already IS a great place for the arts, but how do we let the rest of the city, state, country and even the world know this?

Views: 13

Tags: action, arts, culture, downtown

Comment by Muskrat Sam Donaldson on October 21, 2009 at 4:38pm
Paula:

I do respect those who feel that Albuquerque is not living up to its "cultural potential", but these types of exercises are rapidly becoming an industry in and of themselves. Listed below are just a few examples:

-The Arts Alliance 2008 Arts & Cultural Industries Action Plan

-The oft citedBBER study from 2007

-The highly touted but now somewhat forgotten "Destination Albuquerque" study

-Downtown 2010 sector development plan (scroll down)

If, after all this work, we are still asking the same questions then maybe we are not asking the right question to begin with.
Comment by DCMc on October 21, 2009 at 4:52pm
I have noticed that our city papers do a sort of so-so job of listing the many events that happen here. I wonder if starting a cultural events oriented paper or web site with the participation of the various art, music, poetry, dance and theater groups as well as museums and festival organizers would give everyone a place to communicate and interact with each other, as well as get the word out to the rest of the city about their upcoming events.

Please give us DCF readers the news on the findings of the resource team.
Comment by Kelly on October 21, 2009 at 5:58pm
@DCMc: Try this as a paper that's devoted to cultural and arts events: ABQ Arts
Comment by cathyray on October 21, 2009 at 6:52pm
As a local artiste I have to say that while reading the article I had the same thoughts as Muskrat. I appreciated your enthusiasm but felt like these issues are raised over & over. I wish you the best & would truly love to see ya'll put it all to rest.

There is also another tremendous resource available to you - The Fix!
Comment by Paula Manning-Lewis on October 22, 2009 at 9:02am
I think part of the problem is that there are TOO MANY of these types of resources, DCF, ABQ Arts, Collector's Guide, online calendars, Alibi, Local IQ, on and on! Some of these publications and websites need to work more closely in cooperation with one another. One of the biggest complaints I hear over and over again is about the fragmentation of the Arts in Albuquerque. Muskrat, I totally understand what you are talking about! However, these meetings were specifically about downtown, and I think more concentration needs to happen within certain sectors of the community. The reason we have fragmentation is because this city is so spread out, the only solution is for different areas to come up with their own solutions. Now this may sound like a contradiction with my previous statement about publications working together, but these are the people whose job it is to bring all the sectors into one place. I'm just rambling on and on now, but being downtown, downtown is my main concern. That is what this week's meeting were all about. Cathyray, I agree with both of you, these issues are raised over and over, the main reason being is most people just want to talk about these things and take no action. Well, I'm not one to talk only, I walk my talk, that's why I opened Chroma Studios, because I was sick of all the talk and no action. People have to step up to the plate and MAKE things happen! That's exactly what I intend to do! Believe me, I will be bugging the Downtown Action Team, and I have been ever since we moved downtown in May, and I won't stop until things get done! Even if I have to do it myself! That's where my enthusiasm comes from! Action!

Thanks for all the great comments, now let's all get out there and DO SOMETHING!! :)
Comment by Paula Manning-Lewis on October 22, 2009 at 9:05am
BTW, just noticed that this blog post was featured on the front page! Thanks DCF! Sorry I haven't been posting much here recently, been too busy working!
Comment by Hunter on October 22, 2009 at 10:21am
Paula,

I'm afraid I must agree with Muskrat and Cathyray.

About eight or nine years ago I attended a Saturday morning study session devoted to arts and cultural activity specifically in Downtown. As best I can remember it was held at what is now 516 Arts.

The two concerns I heard most expressed were preservation of low rent "loft" live-work space and creation of performance/exhibition spaces. What we got from DAT were 1/2 million dollar lofts (most of which are empty to this day) and Banana Joe's. Of the top ten SIC (Standard Industry Code) types downtown, six are government. Of the remaining four non-governmental, one is "Escort Service-Personal". Apparently, conventioneers prefer massages to art galleries. Something to keep in mind when that new arena and convention hotel comes around again. Suffice it to say, I have no confidence in the ability or desire of the DAT to bring about the changes you and many others would like to see.

What would I like to see? How about we start with the ACVB and the APD putting up a presence on Central, on the street? How about showcasing all that wonderful local jewelry in a Jewelry Mart? What about cleaning up those trashy alleys that currently are a muggers paradise and turn those blocks "inside out". Make the alleys pedestrian friendly and allow the businesses to "face" inward, thus creating numerous intimate performance spaces. Take 1% for the arts beyond public buildings and impose it on private, downtown development. Especially if that development is being subsidized with public money.

Recognizing that those ideas are directed to public benefit and not private profit, I don't expect them to get much traction. By the way, the last time we had a "Resource consultancy" was when the ULI gave us an opinion on the Railyards. That wasn't the "answer" we wanted and it has sat on a shelf ever since.
Comment by Muskrat Sam Donaldson on October 22, 2009 at 10:23am
Paula:

Again, your enthusiasm is great, but what is needed most at this point is a post-mortem on the Downtown 2010 Plan. Much of what your group is talking about (making Downtown a cultural center) was an important part of this effort. Obviously despite a TON of resources (financial and otherwise) being thrown at it, little has changed in the Downtown core. There are a couple of bright spots (movie theater, Andaluz) but the list of failures is long and distinguished (Gold Avenue Lofts, numerous small businesses along Gold Avenue, "Banque" Lofts etc.)

Downtown 2010 was a good plan backed up by real dollars. The question everyone needs to be asking now is why did it fail? The honest answer to that question will help point this latest effort in the right direction.
Comment by Big White Hat on October 23, 2009 at 10:00am
I have to chime in with Hunter (and Muskrat and Cathyray) about the preservation of affordable live work...or just plain work spaces. The reason for the failure was too much "self interest" for profit being the motive rather than creating something for the greater good of everyone. Why does the Kress building sit EMPTY for years on end, unused? Because the owner is holding out for the big rent no one can afford? Why doesn't the owner sell it to someone who will really make something happen?
Comment by Wade Patterson on October 23, 2009 at 2:48pm
Thought I would chime in regarding the Arts and Culture District assessment process. I sat in on the Physical Planning group last Tuesday which mainly focused on trying to identify where the boundaries of such a district might be. As you can imagine, this took a good deal of time and is not a decision that is easily made. Anyway, I think some of my comments touch on issues other have raised here. This is a great and productive discussion, I think, about what downtown could be. Keep up the dialogue!

The Physical Planning discussion primarily turned around how much to include in the district. If the district is small, some folks will be left out and that may cause some tensions within the downtown arts community. On the other hand, of the district is too large, you run the risk of never achieving the critical mass and density of arts/culture related activities that gives a district like this its buzz and cache.

It may help to explain what exactly the benefits and resources that this Arts and Culture District creates for local players. Essentially, it breaks down into “technical support” in areas like branding, marketing and promotion of the area. These are the tools that make the district look, feel, and be perceived of as a “destination” both for out of town visitors and our own residents. The other asset the designation brings to the table is a doubling of the tax incentive for folks to adapt historic structures within the district. So, the current incentive of $25,000 jumps to $50,000 if rehabilitating a designated historic structure. The idea is that this helps drive development/renovation into the district area to help make the “best and highest” use of historic structures. Given the presence of several underutilized historic buildings right in the core on Central and surrounding streets, I do feel that there needs to be some sort of incentive created.

Whether this $50k is enough, I don’t know. I do know that for some of the buildings downtown, the costs of restoration and bringing up to code is not easily offset by the rents that can be charged. And so, many owners have simply sat on their properties or only rented out portions because the rest is not up to code. As to the comments about WHAT kind of developments would best serve the area, there was something of a discussion about this. The incentive applies to any historic renovation within the district, regardless of the intended use. The Cultural District really has no power to insist on a particular kind of development. The Downtown 2010 Plan or any other Sector Planning that is developed in the near future does/would. That is really where one would want to call for those uses anyway. The Cultural District is not an official City Plan with any teeth to enforce anything like that anyway. The district and their representatives could, however, be assertive about courting developers for particular types of projects, though.

There were a lot of ideas thrown around, but I walked away with the sense that the boundaries of the arts and culture district are likely to be about one square mile. It would extend roughly from First Street to Eighth or Ninth Street (Robinson Park area) and from Coal to Tijeras or perhaps even Lomas. As a representative of the Harwood Art Center, this does leave us out of the district, but in looking at the map, the cluster of resources in the downtown core, and the unique qualities of Mountain Road (which I think merits its own district status), I do feel that these proposed boundaries make sense. And for other groups located outside of the area, I would argue that if the branding of the area is successful, it may be just as effective to say “we’re located just north of the downtown arts and culture district” as it is to say “we are in the downtown arts and culture district.” Its not as if nothing will happen outside of that designated area, only that the investment of time, energy, money and etc will be concentrated in the core.

Anyway, I thought folks might be interested to hear the report form the physical planning meeting.

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