Zuni Pueblo exec: 'Art is a vital economic driver of our community

3 Aug 2015


A national organization recently awarded the University of New Mexico's School of Architecture and Planning a $225,000 grant to be used for development and promotion of a unique initiative at Zuni Pueblo.

Zuni Pueblo's MainStreet program, which became the country's first American Indian MainStreet in 2012, is working with UNM's Indigenous Design and Planning Institute on the project.

The award was one of 38 granted by ArtPlace, an organization that "invests in creative placemaking projects where the arts play a central role in a community’s planning and development strategies."

Loren Thomas, president of Zuni Pueblo MainStreet, said the grant could be used for more signage, or to build physical structures such as a covered space for artists to sell items to tourists or a marketplace building. Currently, artists sell their pieces on the main roadside, which can be dangerous for visitors and artists.

"We're optimistic about the potential that it holds for the community," Thomas said. Thomas said approximately 600 Zuni residents are full-time artists. Another 800 use art to supplement their income.

"Art is a vital economic driver of our community. Our hope is that with UNM's research, we can improve this part of our community economically, but also physically, and how it translates into placemaking," Thomas said.

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