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Corrales should be a shoo-in for state recognition as an “Arts and Cultural District,” and a $40,000 state grant to produce a Cultural Economic Development Plan has launched the process. But artists here, as elsewhere, are notoriously difficult to organize and some are inclined to quarrels and even back-biting. If that’s what happens as planning gets underway, maybe the “cultural” part of the project will smooth things out.

The Corrales Historical Society has been laying the groundwork for such a district for more than a decade as evidenced by its blue plaques designating historic structures along Corrales Road’s commercial area. At the May 10 Village Council meeting, Corrales accepted the grant terms and allocated $8,000 from its own coffers as the local match for the project which will be driven by Corrales MainStreet, Inc.

The upcoming Arts and Cultural District plan is described by the N.M. Department of Economic Development as on which not only “addresses the needs of, and opportunities for artists, cultural institutions and  community citizens, it easily integrates into relevant aspects of city planning, historic preservation, cultural tourism development, urban design and downtown revitalization.”

The planning process is supposed to be “developed through a broad-based community engagement planning process designed to identify and build on the community’s outstanding arts, cultural, natural and heritage assets.”

Funding apparently will hire a planning consultant who will collaborate with a Corrales arts and cultural district committee “to develop a community engagement plan for cultivating cultural plan elements.”

A key component will be “cultural asset mapping” which “inventories arts and cultural assets including artists and craftspeople, funding institutions, educational centers, media, cultural entrepreneurs and other creative businesses that are related to community values, strengths, assets and history.”

Specified as a component of the plan is a “overview of the history and settlement of the community [which can] identify key historical or cultural events or populations that can serve as contributing to a  place-based identity for the district.”

The Corrales Historical Society has that well-covered, along with the component for “preservation and conservation of existing historic buildings and cultural properties.”

More  problematic is the component calling for evaluation of “transportation, or transit, traffic and pedestrian issues related to creating a walkable pedestrian-friendly environment through pedestrian enhancements and traffic-calming measures.”

The Economic Development Department’s grant agreement with the Village outlines specific elements of public participation, including “a widely advertised community kick-off meeting to introduce the community to the project and provide methods for the community to participate throughout the  process.” An early step is to identify key people to be interviewed and included in focus groups.

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A first and second round of such interviews would be followed by a public meeting to present a draft plan and then review by New Mexico Arts, N.M. MainStreet, the N.M. Historic  Preservation Division and the N.M. Department of Transportation.

“The final Arts and Cultural District Cultural Economic Development Plan needs to be adopted by resolution by the City Council/Commission.… The [plan] should also be adopted as an amendment to the City’s local Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) ordinance.”

That last step is also where the long process began.  Before Corrales MainStreet could start the process to establish an arts and cultural district here, it had to get the Village Council to adopt an economic development strategic plan. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIV No.14 September 5, 2015 “Economic Development Strategic Plan Airs Sept.9.”)

Of the four goals set out in the 36-page  Economic Development Strategic Plan as formulated by Corrales MainStreet, Inc. back then, the most far-reaching was expected to be creation of an arts and cultural district here.

Under Goal 4 of that plan, “Create an arts and cultural district in Corrales,” the strategies  were:

“• Identify present arts and culture organizations within Corrales.”

“• Develop programs to attract more arts and culture shoppers.”

“• Identify and inventory individuals / businesses currently involved in art and culture activities, i.e. painters, potters, sculptors, musicians, musical groups, dance, drama, etc.”

“• Identify current projects that support and expand arts and culture activities, i.e. CAST (Corrales Art Studio Tour), Art in the Park, Casa San Ysidro Museum and plein air, etc.”

“• Perform an ongoing analysis to document the economic impact of arts and culture activities in the village.’

“• Corrales’ rich ‘history’ should be incorporated in the ongoing development of arts and culture in the village.”

(See Corrales Comment’s two-part series on adoption of the Local Economic Development Strategic Plan in Vol.XXXVI No.4 & 5, April 22, 2017 and May 6, 2017.)

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