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A Creative Oasis: Building a Creative Industry in Southern New Mexico 

The heat.

The unbearable heat! The endless miles of monotonous beige dunes, punctuated only by lackluster branding and uninspired commercial video work. You can’t help but wonder, “When will this creative drought end?”

But then, emerging on the horizon of the vast desert, you spot a glimmer of hope… Could it be? An oasis amidst the arid landscape, where imagination runs wild, and creativity knows no bounds.  

NMCO Studio is a creative and video production agency located in the heart of Southern New Mexico. Here, the creative juices flow like crisp mountain spring water, and bright ideas flourish like thriving sunflowers.

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A creative studio is a collaborative hub where professionals across various creative disciplines, such as graphic design, art direction, and video production, synergize to produce innovative commercial content. Instead of a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none situation, it’s a full house with masters of their creative craft coming together to flex their strengths. This environment fosters seamless cooperation with Marketing Directors and marketing and advertising agencies, leveraging each member’s unique skills and insights toward a unified objective. By approaching projects holistically, creative studios deliver cohesive, cutting-edge results. Through close-knit teamwork, including graphic designers, web developers, and videographers, they efficiently exchange ideas and tackle challenges, resulting in comprehensive campaigns that excel in real-world contexts, championing mastery in each creative domain.

Back in the day…

A decade ago, Las Cruces didn’t have a full-house media company. No way, Jose. Instead, we had a handful of separate companies that specialized in one thing or dabbled in a few, churning out the same stale creative content. This could have been better for a few reasons. For one, if you were looking for a website, a logo, a commercial, staff portraits, copywriting, and ad placement, you would have to hire many different businesses, and you may end up with a hodgepodge of mismatched elements, making you look less legitimate as a business or organization. Secondly, many creative jobs were outsourced to non-local contractors, which didn’t favor our local economy. Plus, without an understanding of Southern New Mexico culture, creative content made by outside contractors felt empty and flat, leaving something to be desired.

At that time, NMCO Studio co-founders Tina Ballew and Lucky Gonzalez were owners of two separate businesses who wanted to shake up the status quo of commercial creativity in Las Cruces.  

As firm believers in the power of teamwork, they saw that by working together, they could achieve their shared goal of elevating the standard of commercial creativity by fostering an agency where creatives work together to make creative magic happen. Tina and Lucky joined forces to create NMCO, an innovative new hub for cross-collaborative creative services in Las Cruces that provides graphics, video, photography, and web services.

A whole lotta hustlin’ later: NMCO Studio is a bustling creative studio offering graphic design, video services, photography, web development, creative strategy, ad-buy, and more.  But we can’t take all the credit.

As the film scene in New Mexico keeps booming, NMCO is riding the wave of cinematic creativity and opportunity, elevating our commercial video work to new heights and contributing to a growing network of actors, prop houses, and unique locations.

Other organizations continue to contribute to our blooming creative economy as well. New Mexico’s Economic Development Department’s Creative Industries Division was established when the 2023 Legislature passed House Bill 8 to establish a division focused on growing Creative Industries in New Mexico. The measure was signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on April 5, 2023. NMCO was lucky enough to meet with and provide valuable insight into our industry late last year. Check out some of their findings here.

Dona Ana Community College’s Creative Media Technology department is constructing a new creative campus that will prepare students to become digital storytellers and media specialists using state of the art, industry-standard tools.

And the new Creative Media Alliance, who works with college students pays for on-the-job experience with various production and creative studios.  We had the benefit to utilize this incentive with our Borderplex post-production for MVEDA, in collaboration with Director Ross Marks, Chad Burris from the New Mexico film office and Chee Ho.

A creative studio in the hub of two college campuses allows NMCO to stay committed to nurturing the next generation of talent by opening our doors to students and graduates for tours and internships, providing a space for real-world experience. We proudly have an in-house staff of 98% NMSU graduates from the CMI and Fine Arts departments at NMSU. We want to help pave the way for a future where passion and opportunity collide, and creativity can be your career.

Navigating growth in an ever-evolving industry presents challenges, especially in a state like New Mexico, persistently ranking among the nation’s poorest. Striking a balance between fair wages and industry standards becomes crucial amid heightened competition fueled by the state’s film-centric initiatives. Rather than viewing this competition as a threat, NMCO sees it as an opportunity. It fosters a culture of excellence, pushing everyone to refine their craft. We at NMCO Studio value fair compensation and believe that continued development within the industry will hopefully lead to fairer wages and contribute to a stronger economy. Leveraging our unique perspectives, advanced abilities, and collaborative ethos, we are poised to stand out amidst this dynamic landscape.

As we look back on our collective journey, we are proud of our humble role in cultivating a vibrant, creative community here in Southern New Mexico. From humble beginnings, we’ve witnessed the transformation of our region into a thriving hub of artistic innovation and expression.  As we look to the future, we’re excited to continue cultivating this creative oasis, fostering collaboration, inspiration, and growth for years.  

NMCO Studio member, Kahlo

Kahlo

Door Greeter & Cookie Eater

Kahlo is our gentle, friendly, office pup! He loves his belly rubbed, sniffing absolutely everything, and hasn’t found a treat he wouldn’t eat! Be sure to say hi, he loves the attention!

NMCO Studio member, Kelsey

Kelsey Gentile

Web Specialist

Once those websites are complete, Kelsey is our web maintenance manager. From regular updates, security checks, and content updates, Kelsey keeps our websites running smoothly, secure, and in tip-top shape.

NMCO Studio member, Annakat

Anna Kat Hollis

Senior Web Developer

Anna Kat is the driving force behind NMCO’s web development endeavors. With a sharp intellect, unwavering efficiency, and a keen eye for goals, she is the go-to expert for crafting everything from sleek landing pages to nationally acclaimed e-commerce sites. Anna Kat not only serves as your trusted web developer guide but also, if you look closely, you’ll notice she’s always impeccably color-coordinated with NMCO’s brand – a true testament to her attention to detail and commitment to the company’s image.

Zac Wittstruck

Animator

If you’re needing quality animation, Zac is your guy! Motion graphics, custom character rigging, and 2D animation are some of Zac’s specialties. Zac always wears a smile and is truly one of the nicest people you’ll meet. When Zac isn’t whipping out great animations, he plays bass guitar for a local jazz band! What a cool cat!

NMCO Studio member, Arron

Aaron Walterscheid

Video Specialist & Cinematographer

Meet Aaron, NMCO’s “Silent Assassin.” Despite his quiet demeanor, Aaron is an absolute powerhouse when it comes to videography, editing, color grading, drone operation, lighting, and crafting unforgettable cinematic experiences. His remarkable talent and expertise shine brightly, leaving an indelible mark on every project he touches.

NMCO Studio member, Sam

Sam Palm

Video Specialist & Photographer

Meet Sam, our resident photographer extraordinaire, who effortlessly transitions into the roles of Director of Photography, editor, color specialist, and an all-around Jack-of-all-trades. With an innate talent for capturing picture-perfect moments, Sam’s versatility knows no bounds. Beyond the camera, you’ll find him cruising the Southwest, embracing life to the fullest. Oh, and did we mention he boasts a head of truly great hair? 

NMCO Studio member, Ralph

Ralph Diaz

Senior Video Specialist

Don’t confuse Ralph with Academy Award-winning actor Johnny Depp. Although there’s a close resemblance, Ralph is much more talented behind the camera. He’s done it all from VFX to animation, to producing, directing, and editing some of our most memorable productions. It also should come as no surprise that he’s mastered the technical and practical aspects of videography, giving him the nickname, “The Doctor.”

NMCO Studio member, Dana

Dana Apodaca

Senior Graphic Designer & Art Director

Dana’s journey with NMCO has been nothing short of impressive, starting as a design intern and progressing to become a designer who now plays a pivotal role in assisting with art direction. Her dedication keeps our graphics department on track and ensures our processes are efficient and business-ready. Dana’s knack for creating identity systems has resulted in some of our most recognized work. And, if you’re fortunate enough to listen in, she’s consistently voted the best playlist in the studio.

NMCO Studio member

Dawn Franco

Studio Manager

With a background in journalism, file archival and organization, Dawn is our client onboarding extraordinaire. From contract preparation, to project management, account direction, and reporting, Dawn stirs the pot for most productions, making sure it’s served hot and on time.

NMCO Studio Co founder, Lucky

Lucky Gonzalez

Founder & Chief Executive Officer

When you have a wealth of creative content, you need someone like Lucky with 18 years of business experience to guide you on where to put it. He’s our media placement guru, with the expertise and know-how to maximize your impact. Whether it’s digital banner ads or broadcast TV, Lucky can take any budget and transform it into impressions and conversions. He’s dedicated to finding solutions for your unique challenges, making him an invaluable asset to our team.

NMCO Studio member, Tina

Christina Ballew

Founder & Chief Creative Officer

Tina, as a co-founder of NMCO, has been on a relentless mission to redefine creative services in the southwest. Building a creative studio from the ground up was a formidable challenge, but her vision and determination have transformed NMCO into a beacon of professionalism and innovation, known for its people-centric approach and out-of-the-box thinking. While she’s taken on nearly every role in the studio, Tina’s next ambition is nothing short of global. She’s poised to take on the world with her creative endeavors.