Belen — The city of Belen is one of 18 New Mexico communities to receive grant funding to stimulate advancement or economic development through creative industries.
The city, in collaboration with the Belen Main Street Partnership, applied for and received a $100,000 grant from the newly-established Creative Industries Division, a part of the state’s Economic Development Department.
During the Oct. 16 Belen City Council meeting, Belen Public Library Director Kathleen Pickering said the grant “dovetails with efforts we’ve been making to create an arts and culture district on Becker (Avenue) and beyond.”
Pickering said the overall purpose of the funding is to increase economic returns on creative industries in Belen by supporting artists and creative industries.
The CID was enacted by House Bill 8, which was signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in April. The new division was created to help diversify the state’s economy and support New Mexicans who work in creative industries by giving out competitive grants.
A total of $2 million was made available for the grants and is a one-time appropriation from the state’s general fund. Fifty percent of the funding must go to rural communities around New Mexico. The EDD will attempt to get recurring funding from the state in the 2025 fiscal year budget.
The goal of the Belen program will be to engage young people, Pickering said, and funds will be used to contract with a program coordinator to keep in contact with stakeholders on Becker Avenue and work with the city to coordinate art walks and other signature events.
“We want to have monthly experiences, events, trainings or workshops that deals with creative industries here in Belen,” Pickering said. “There will be money for a student intern to shadow the coordinator, who will act as a curator and organizer for four classes of student art for the spring.”
Pickering said the goal was to have a show or exhibit of the work sometime in June, and the grant would also cover the costs of infrastructure, such as electrical needs and parking for pop-up events.
The grant would also pay for contracts — one in IT and another in marketing — to provide experts to work with local groups and provide one-on-one help so artists and those in the creative industries can improve outreach efforts, technical skills and grow their capacity.
“This will allow us to expand the Explore Belen website (explorebelen.com) and app so we can provide more about what is going on in the arts and cultural events in Belen,” she said. “We have to spend the grant by next summer, so we can’t sit around.”
The director also gave a “shout out” to the Belen Art League for providing the structure for the city to work with MainStreet and local arts organizations.
“That collaboration has been extremely successful,” she said.
The Creative Industries Division bill received unanimous support from all the state representatives and senators representing Valencia County.
The state’s definition of creative industries is broad and encompasses a wide range of professions, including visual and literary arts, architecture, marketing, computer design, coding, media, broadcasting, woodworking, ceramics and culinary arts.
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.