This article first appeared in the Hobbs News-Sun.
In the last 10 years, the JF Maddox Foundation has granted more than $3 million dollars for arts and culture events in Lea County.
From time to time I have been asked the question, “Why are the arts so important?”
The answer may be different than you think.
The secret to Lea County’s success is the people. It is the relationships we build and networks we rely on. It is the sense of place that we develop from a cup of coffee or sharing an experience. For some communities, the sense of place is defined by the way it looks or how much entertainment is found.
When you rely on entertainment or amenities to define your relationship with a community, the connection quickly fades. There is always a new mountain range or bigger music festival that will call you away. However, when your sense of place is based on social capital and human connection you will find an overwhelming draw to home.
Patty Collins is the executive director of the Hobbs Chamber of Commerce. She has also spent years within the leadership of nonprofit organizations like Faith in Action. Patty is the type of leader that communities get excited about.
What’s the secret to getting people like Patty in Hobbs?
“I have so many great stories of Lea County and connecting with people. Many of our conversations start with, ‘remember that time at Hobbs August Nites?’ or ‘…How about that time at the Faith in Action Celebrity Dinner,” Patty remarked. “I’m in Lea County because my community is here, and nothing creates community like shared experiences and connection.”
When we invest in arts and culture, it is about creating opportunities for people to connect. We engage in the new exhibit at the Western Heritage Museum. Our children perform together at the Community Players youth performing arts workshop.
Our families play in foam and skate at the mobile roller rink presented by Lovington MainStreet. We sing along to the live concerts presented at the Cinco de Mayo celebration in Lovington or United Way benefit concert in Hobbs.
There are times when we sit quietly and watch the Southwest Symphony Orchestra perform a beautiful sonata or listen to a speech at the Jack Maddox Distinguished Lecture Series. The next day, we talk to our neighbors about how amazed we are at the caliber of events in Lea County, New Mexico.
These experiences lead to connections. Those connections lead to lasting dedication to this place. We do not invest in events so that we can check a box and add it to our brochure. We are dedicated to people and a sense of place that instills pride for years to come. So, why do we spend money on arts and culture?
We don’t. We help facilitate experiences so that we can highlight the greatest part of our community — the people.
If you are looking for ways to discover Lea County’s most valuable asset, check out the community calendar website, HobbsEvents.org , for all events in Lea County.
David Reed is a Senior Program Officer for the JF Maddox Foundation, a private family foundation focused on cultivating big-picture possibilities in Lea County, New Mexico. Through its investments, scholarship program, and leadership institute, the JF Maddox Foundation has transformed the Lea County community bringing about the changes that residents thrive on for generations.