BELEN — Belen MainStreet Partnership has been selected by the New Mexico Main Street program as the first pilot program for the Creative Economy JumpStart Program, an opportunity to develop local projects that support creative economy work.

Jay Peters, president of Belen MainStreet Partnership

The program focuses on leveraging existing local art and cultural assets and works to build community-led projects. NMMS provides technical support for the Creative Economy JumpStart through their Creative Economies Revitalization specialist, Michelle Negrette.

“Michelle has been sharing opportunities with us for months now and we couldn’t be more excited about the possibilities,” said Jay Peters, president of the local Belen MainStreet Partnership. “We have so many arts and cultural assets in Belen that it would be crazy not to take advantage of the resources and local expertise available to bring in grants, tourists and recognition.”

Recently, the Belen MainStreet Partnership held the first of several planned meetings with the community to begin the collaborative process. It was held at the Belen Public Library and was well attended by more than 50 locals, including city staff, governing body members, school administration, venders, artists, store owners, restaurant representatives and more.

There are about 60 local businesses in the MainStreet district that could benefit from the Arts and Cultural Designation that BMSP is working towards achieving. New Mexico State Authorized Arts and Cultural Districts are a part of the NMMS program and authorized by New Mexico Arts.

Kathleen Pickering, director of the Belen Library, has been appointed to the chairwoman of the BMSP ACD Council and helped organize and facilitate the meeting.

“It is great to see the interest and excitement already put forth by the community,” Pickering said. “The participants brought so much to the table and there is no doubt that if this program continues to receive that kind of support, it will be a huge success for our city.”

Rhona Espinoza, executive director of the BMSP, indicated there will be more meetings and opportunities for participation from the public and the association is not wasting any time moving this project forward.

“The timing of this initiative is perfect as we just finished the beautiful Becker Avenue Great Blocks Project, so we are now able to redirect some of our efforts to this important strategic initiative,” Espinoza said. “Although my board is small, they are mighty and dedicated. Sometimes I am amazed at how much we accomplish together each year when we take inventory of the progress and successes.”

To get involved with the organization, attend the Arts and Cultural District Meetings or to volunteer, contact Rhona Espinoza at 505-864-8091.

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The Valencia County News-Bulletin is a locally owned and operated community newspaper, dedicated to serving Valencia County since 1910 through the highest journalistic and professional business standards. The VCNB is published weekly on Thursdays, including holidays both in print and online.