Public art has been a force for economic development in New Mexico at least since the Great Depression, when the federal government paid hundreds of unemployed artists to create murals, sculpture and other artworks that grace federal buildings to this day.
Nearly a century later, many New Mexico cities are using public art projects to promote economic vitality by creating a foundation for community identity, centralizing disparate neighborhoods with a collective vision and attracting the attention of businesses that value culturally vibrant communities. One of those cities is Rio Rancho.
“Public art speaks to our culture and how we value the places we live in,” said Daniel Chamberlain, an architect with FBT Architects and chairman of Rio Rancho’s volunteer Arts Commission. “It is a wonderful negotiator of vision. It’s a quality-of-life driver.”
The payback can be enormous, Chamberlain said, even if it’s hard to measure.
Committed to the arts