Florida in Albuquerque

Don Pizzolato has a thoughtful post this morning on the Duke City Fix that reaches beyond the traditional “rise of the creative class” economic development palaver that underpins much discussion these days in Albuquerque to examine the underlying premises. In the careful way of my favorite writers, Don’s smart enough not to come to any bombastic conclusions. But his piece suggests that, while there may be meat on the creative class bones, it’s improper to hitch every neat new idea to the creative class bandwagon.

Go read the whole thing yourself, but I’d like to highlight one of his observations that resonated with me:

[T]he University of New Mexico should be a cultural and social hub, but is nearly invisible save for Lobo football/basketball and the occasional show at Popejoy.

This has always puzzled me. Perhaps a missed opportunity, perhaps something more complex that’s rooted in a strain of anti-intellectualism in our society. I spend a lot of my professional life in and around the university, what with all the scientists there and all. It’s a fascinating place, full of real live art and literature and science. Yet that life of the mind is largely self-contained, with neither the enormous university community reaching out to any great extent, nor the outside world peeking in.

Why is that? How does this compare to other academic communities elsewhere around the world?


  1. I think you’re right, John. And what makes this even stranger is that a large (very large) percentage of UNM grads stay in the larger ABQ metro area after graduation. I’ll try to dig up the numbers.

    The other side of that coin is that UNM is a commuter school — relatively few students live on campus, many are nontraditional, many have full time jobs, many are part-time students who will take a number of years to graduate beyond the traditional four.

    It could be argued that the same students who pop on campus for classes and then leave without sampling everything else the school has going on are unlikely to then return after gradutation for the community events and opportunities they didn’t take advantage of while they were students.

    To your parking comment on DCF, though, I do have to say this: In a town like ABQ I do believe that parking makes a big difference. We’re so accustomed to free and plentiful parking that, given the option of holding, say, our community meetings at UNM (which happens with other universities and is, I think, a major boon to campus life) and holding them in a location with free parking, we choose the parking each time.

  2. Sophie –

    Thanks for the comments. Some questions:

    Isn’t parking at UNM free in the evenings? Or do they still ticket in those big lots along Central?

    What are the events going on now on campus (beyond Popejoy) that might be of interest to the greater community – lectures, art shows, etc. I know you make some effort to promote these on the Fix, and we do in the Journal, but are there things that might be a draw if more people knew about them? Or is there a more fundamental disconnect because of the type of events they are?

  3. What happens with the CNU mindset is that it is driven by big-ego architects (we say ‘Starchitects’). The starchitects come in and are convinced their ideas are the ones that will revitalize x area. Why? Well, we did it in y area so there! Proof!

    Problem is, there is no local input like Sophies’ in this process. This process usually says ‘you need to tweak your ideas’.

    Now, John and I may know of a town somewhere several hours to the north of John that hired an architectural firm (rather than a planner) to help figure out a development plan. When the town planners asked the architect to tweak their design, the architect said no. The architect was let go.

    The point of all this? Planning with architects is usually all top-down. Cities are made from the top-down and from the bottom-up. The bottom-up informs the top-down process. If there is no informing from the bottom-up (as in, say, NOLA), you get failure. Me, I’m a bottom-up guy. I like my natural ecosystems from the bottom-up. I like art from the bottom-up too. The bottom-up is democracy in action, too. It’s messy and slow, but the best way, in my view.



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