This is the first of a two-part column that looks at efforts by members of the town of Taos marketing team, local civic officials, concerned artists and art business owners hoping to improve the state of arts for Taos.
State of the town of Taos arts marketing
Taos artists of all stripes – visual arts, performing arts, media arts, gallerists and more – say they’re hurting. At a Taos marketing meeting Thursday (Oct. 12), about 25 of these artists asked the town of Taos what it’s doing to make the hurt go away and how what’s being done is different from the way the town has marketed Taos arts in the past.
A prior meeting by the mayor and Taos Town Council must first be addressed, however, to give the town’s marketing process its proper due diligence.
A 14-page fulfillment report on the town’s Resolution 17-41 in support of the arts was presented by Town Manager Rick Bellis for approval at the Tuesday (Oct. 10) regular Taos Town Council meeting. (Be sure to check out the Meow Wolf Festival the town is in a bidding war over with Albuquerque – at the bottom of this Part I marketing report).
Money, money, money, money
• The town has adopted a new minimum 1 percent by ordinance of its lodgers tax to arts-related marketing and/or arts-related events, up to a cap of $100,000 (that’s double what Santa Fe is providing arts promotion per capita, Bellis said).
• New monies and/or advertising for The PASEO outdoor art expo are pledged. In addition to providing $25,000 in support for The PASEO, the town is “working toward a long-term expansion of the program as an annual arts anchor.”
• The town has about $250,000 in a revolving loan fund, to become $500,000 by June 2018, to help attract major tourism and economic-generating events to the town that can act as anchors for art-related spinoffs, such as the “Michael Hearne Big Barn Dance Art and Gallery Walk” held this fall. The upshot? Go to a Taos Town Council or marketing meeting and ask for funds if you have a proposal.
Bringing tourists to Taos
• A new Taos artists market sponsored by the Harwood Museum will be on its patio and parking lot, with a Ledoux Street closure if needed, held in conjunction with the weekly Taos Farmers Market for the promotion and sale of work by local artists, to begin in spring 2018.
• New, too, is an approval for 2017-18 road closures for “First Fridays,” “First Saturday Art Walks” and other arts events, like the artists market. The Bent Street closure for the “First Fridays” street event showcases participating businesses and local artists, including any and all drama, circus, music, performing, media and visual artists – so all Taos arts are supported.
• All three street-based events – and possibly Taos Farmers Market – will receive assistance from the town to coordinate their marketing and scheduling, along with any town-sponsored entertainment, so to reach the maximum audience and have the greatest economic impact.
“The town will initially assist in this role,” Bellis said, but the town has identified the “Arts and Cultural District” to assume organizational responsibility, over time, under a “management agreement,” as is done with the Fiestas de Taos and Taos Farmers Market.
Also passed, approved, adopted
1. Commercial display space
All new businesses yearly, upon renewal of business registrations and alcohol licenses, will be asked to make wall space available for display of works by local artists and to use local art in decorating their businesses.
A similar notice will be sent with lodgers tax letters to hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfast establishments and short-term rentals, asking for local art décor in rooms and common areas, offering lodgers means to buy the art directly or from the artists/artisans – attaching artist/gallery contact information thereby.
2. Taos Fall Arts Festival
Continue Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Gymnasium availability as long as it is rented by the town for Taos Fall Arts Festival.
3. Free marketing on town website
Galleries can now post ads for free on TAOS.org, the town-administered tourism website, where they were previously required to buy ads. Free listings are now expanded to the town’s art and historical museums. A link will be placed on TAOS.org and the town website for Taos Gallery Association and possibly also for arts-related special events, like “First Fridays,” Taos Fall Arts Festival, etc.
4. Music and art fusion
The second annual “Art Walk” in conjunction with the Big Barn Dance drew 110 people, so town marketing seeks to tie music and special events into patronage for arts and galleries.
5. Taos Community Auditorium
The town and the Taos Center for the Arts, which is owned by the town, but managed by the center, agreed to 1) an initial one-year current lease extension to avoid a lapse; 2) by Oct. 15, sign a resolution for town support and commitment to partner long term with the center as sole, exclusive management entity for the auditorium; 3) to work jointly on a committee to avoid or minimize and mitigate the impact of conflicting events; 4) to identify additional venue programming with the auditorium as a business partnership; 5) that the town is implementing ways to develop an external greenroom, staging and support systems to minimize its need for the auditorium during outdoor concerts and events; 6) the town is exploring funding and acoustical options to reduce noise interference between park events and auditorium activities; 7) town will develop, in conjunction with the center, a four-year renewable agreement for the center to operate the auditorium; 8) the town will identify funding to repair and pave the roads and parking areas of the auditorium in 2018.
Bellis notes a synergy taking shape, stimulated in part by the town’s resolutions, “in which existing arts entities are communicating about ways to work together”:
• Taos Arts Council initiated forums, reaching out to the arts community for input on the arts.
• Taos Arts Council and “Arts and Cultural District” have joined forces to bring art displays to empty storefronts in town.
• “Kit Carson Arts and Culture District,” Taos Gallery Association, “First Fridays” organizers and the town are working collaboratively to coordinate their events in order to maximize their impact and better utilize their resources.
• The town, Harwood Museum and Taos Farmers Market will be coordinating the Saturday morning farmers and artist markets in 2018.
• The town and TCA, as part of their lease renewal negotiations, are developing a facility-users council to provide better coordination and cooperation between events, as well as ways the town can attract more events to the TCA and use the shared alcohol license in more productive ways.
• The town is working with the organizers and The PASEO’s board to revitalize the concept of “The Toolbox” at the old town of Taos police station on the corner of Paseo del Pueblo Norte and Civic Plaza Drive to create “‘The Taos Hub,’ a curated space for collaborative experiences.” The Taos Hub will involve the University of New Mexico-Taos construction and greenbuilding class, Lumenscapes, UNM Digital Media Arts, UNM Adult Education and Career Center, SOMOS, the Taos Special Events and Facilities Department and local artists in the creation of an artistic and technological crucible to serve as a hub for “immersive experiences, information-sharing events and interactive workshops [to] stimulate collaboration and incubation of ideas among partners to fulfill the mission of engaging our community.”
• The town is also working with UNM-Taos, SOMOS and other partners to see how Civic Plaza Drive can be converted into an educational, artistic and experiential creative corridor within the downtown area, providing a performance space for all kinds of productions.
7. Meow Wolf arts and music festival
The town is partnering with several music/ theatrical promoters and The PASEO to incorporate art into its concerts and to sponsor a three-day international Meow Wolf arts and music festival in June 2018.
“We are competing with Albuquerque for this festival and are still identifying the required funding, but we’ve initiated a bid,” Bellis said Friday (Oct. 13) by phone. AMP Productions also handles the town concerts, so to date, Bellis said the bidding is all between Taos and Albuquerque.
“We also anticipate being able to announce several major musical acts by Jan. 1, 2018, in order to better market, plan and reduce interference with other events and venues.”
Keeping it local
In addition to the developments mentioned above are the efforts of Director of Marketing and Tourism Karina Armijo (which will be detailed in Part II). It must be noted that Taos Magazine editor Andy Jones has joined the new Taos office of the Waite & Company public relations firm, which will handle the public information contract for the town. More on that next time.
A grand opening public reception for Waite & Company’s Taos office is planned Wednesday (Oct. 25), 5:30-7:30 p.m., at 121 Camino de la Placita.
For more information, email Armijo at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or visit TAOS.org. The office is located in the town of Taos complex at 400 Camino de la Placita. Call (575) 737-5849.