Entertainment Series Arts @ HU Boosts Las Vegas Economy

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Multiplatinum country artist Josh Turner performs at Highlands University’s Wilson Complex Feb. 3.
Photo: Rick Loffredo/Highlands University

Las Vegas, N.M – Businesses in Las Vegas say New Mexico Highlands University’s Arts @ HU initiative that brings big-name music and culture events onto campus is having a positive impact on the economy.

Merchants on and near Bridge Street, which is walking distance from campus, have received some of the biggest boosts when Highlands brought in acts like multiplatinum country artist Josh Turner and top comedian Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias.

“The Highlands concerts are generating energy in the community and getting people out, increasing the college-town experience,” said Isaac Sandoval, co-owner of the The Skillet restaurant on 12th Street. “Our restaurant is young, we just opened in October 2017, and the Highlands arts and culture events are stimulating business and our customer base. We’re seeing both locals and out-of-towners coming to The Skillet before and after concerts for food, drinks and fun.”

Sandoval, along with his wife and business partner Shawna Sandoval, are Highlands fine arts alumni.

“Seeing the arts showcased at Highlands is exciting for us,” said Sandoval, a Las Vegas native.

Sara Mathews, manager of Borracho’s Craft Booze and Brews on Bridge Street, said Arts @ HU is good for the local economy.

“Arts @ HU has provided top-of-the-line entertainment, giving students and the community more cultural events that help dispel the myth that there isn’t enough to do in Las Vegas,” said Mathews, who grew up in Las Vegas. “These events create a night-life scene that help Borracho’s and other local service industries retain business.”

Borracho’s also has a contract with Highlands for the beer and wine garden for Arts @ HU events in Wilson Complex such as Josh Turner and Cheech and Chong.

“This contract with Highlands allows us the opportunity to introduce local New Mexican products such as the Enchanted Circle Brewing Company and local wineries, further promoting what Las Vegas and the surrounding area has to offer,” Mathews said.

Elmo Baca, owner of the Indigo Theater on Bridge Street, said the theater benefits from a partnership with Highlands through the university’s Campus Life Initiative.

“We have a contract with the Highlands Dean of Students Office to offer free movies to the university’s students every other Monday,” Baca said. “This program provides Highlands students with an opportunity to see first-run movies, which exposes them to our theater. What we’re seeing is that these students come back to the Indigo Theater as paying patrons for other movies.”

Baca said he was pleased to see the blockbuster hit movie Black Panther draw a new demographic of Highlands students to his theater for the free movie nights.

Black Panther attracted quite a few athletes that hadn’t visited us before and we hope they will return,” Baca said.

Highlands President Sam Minner said the Campus Life Initiative launched at Highlands in 2016 has several goals. The initiative, funded by student fees, includes the Arts @ HU series and other programming like the Highlands Recreation Center that opened in 2016 and offers outdoor gear and excursions.

“With the Campus Life Initiative, we wanted to provide a wide variety of quality entertainment options for students on or near campus, enriching their college experience and giving them memories to last a lifetime,” Minner said. “We also wanted the initiative to be good for economic development in Las Vegas and strengthen our partnerships with the business community. It’s gratifying that we’re starting to see both goals met, with Arts @ HU leading the way.”

Kimberly Blea, dean of students at Highlands, said programming like Arts @ HU helps strengthen the bond between the university’s students and the community.

“We’re pleased that when our students become more immersed in the Las Vegas community it’s having a positive impact on local merchants,” Blea said. “We’ve worked hard to involve businesses in Arts @ HU, like the well-attended party we had at The Serf after the Josh Turner concert.”

The diversity of other Arts @ HU programming includes entertainment ranging from musical artists like Black Violin and Mariachi Reyna de los Angeles to dance troupes like Rhythm of the Dance Irish National Dance Company and Yjastros: The American Flamenco Repertory Company.

Donna Martínez, manager for Highlands’ Ilfeld Auditorium and KEDP 91.1 FM radio station, plays an instrumental role in booking and managing the Arts @ HU series.

“Interest in the Arts @ HU season passes is growing as the community sees first hand the high-caliber acts we bring in,” Martínez said.

The last performance in the 2017 – 2018 Arts @ HU series is the internationally acclaimed State Street Ballet in a performance of Cinderella April 13 and 14 in Ilfeld. For tickets, call 505-454-3238 or purchase online at www.outhousetickets.com