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Arts & Cultural District

Taos Arts and Cultural District Plan January 2012

The competitive nature of today's tourism market compels communities of all sizes to constantly search for ways to gain an advantage over their peers. For large cities there are options ranging from baseball stadiums to zoos. Small communities, which have far fewer options for adding infrastructure, look for inspired ways to enhance their existing assets and experiences.

The Arts and Cultural Districts program offers communities the size of Taos opportunities suited to their limited capacities and specific needs. Rather than being capital intensive and focused on infrastructure, the strategies emphasized in an Arts and Cultural District prioritize low-impact approaches such as tax credits and design enhancements for upgrading the attractiveness of a community's Arts and Cultural District. Our work in Taos was undertaken as a Resource Team for the New Mexico Arts and Cultural Districts program. The team's individual skills were applied to evaluating downtown Taos, including places adjacent to the boundaries of the proposed Arts and Cultural District. It's important to note that with the exception of one member the Resource Team was comprised entirely of New Mexico residents who all want Taos to retain its reputation as a nationally important creativity center.


With the passage of the New Mexico Arts and Cultural Districts Act in 2007, the stage was set for providing communities with a framework for broadening economic development through arts and culture. A fast growing movement was underway nationally and globally to examine how arts and culture affect rural and urban economies. Recognizing the state's rich cultural heritage, New Mexico MainStreet had been developing an Arts and Cultural District initiative since 2005. Taos was authorized as one of four "Second Round" communities qualifying for the Arts and Cultural Districts program. The 2008 "First Round" of the Arts and Cultural Districts program authorized the pilot communities of Silver City and Las Vegas for the program's debut. Taos' long history as one of the nation's most prominent artist colonies and as a community where the state's Hispanic, American Indian, Anglo, and various other cultures find creative inspiration in the contemporary and traditional forms of visual arts, performance, music and fine crafts imbues Taos with a distinct identity as an art town with a deservedly stellar international reputation, making it an ideal focal point for this effort.