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Texas Commission on the Arts designates five new cultural districts

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The Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA) has approved the designation of five new cultural districts. Cultural districts are special zones that harness the power of cultural resources to stimulate economic development and community revitalization. These districts can be focal points for generating business, attracting tourists, stimulating cultural development and fostering civic pride. The new cultural districts are the Red River Cultural District in Austin, the Deep Ellum Cultural District in Dallas, Near Southside Arts in Fort Worth, and two districts in Houston: the Fifth Ward Cultural Arts District and the Third Ward Cultural District (The Tre). This designation brings the total number of cultural districts in Texas to 48.

The Texas Commission on the Arts is the only body able to officially designate cultural districts on behalf of the State. Cultural districts are marketable tourism assets that highlight the distinct identity of a community and encourage in-state, out-of-state, and international visitors. Cultural district development helps a community boost its economy while realizing other cultural and civic benefits. The outcomes of cultural districts extend beyond the arts and benefit all members of a community. Official designation allows cultural districts and qualifying resident arts organizations to be eligible to apply for significant Cultural District Project funding through TCA.

The Red River Cultural District features authentic live music, food, and drink experiences in the heart of downtown Austin. It is managed by the Red River Merchants’ Association, and is home to over forty local small businesses, as well as the Austin Symphony Orchestra, First Baptist Church, German-Texan Heritage Society, and Waterloo Greenway. The district presents Free Week and Hot Summer Nights annually that are free-admission events for all fans and guests. The district is dedicated to making the area safe for all guests, musicians, and staff.

Established in 1873, the Deep Ellum Cultural District is one of Dallas’s most historically significant neighborhoods and it has always been known for music. In the 1920s, the neighborhood was a hotbed for early jazz and blues musicians. Since then, it has become a center for artists with a vibrant community of galleries, murals and public art. The Traveling Man sculptures, robust live performance offerings, and gallery scene demonstrate that this is a place where art is created, shared and sold. The Deep Ellum Arts Festival began in 1994, and the neighborhood is also home to many creative businesses.

Fort Worth’s Near Southside Arts has a long history of fostering and celebrating the creative assets of their 1,400 acre district. The Near Southside was established as a turn-of-the-century street car district founded by a rich community of makers and craftsmen. Today, the district holds tightly to those roots with the largest contiguous collection of Craftsman homes in the nation (Historic Fairmount) and boasts more than 200 locally-owned and operated artisan businesses. Now in its 18th year, ArtsGoggle is the district’s signature free-to-the-public event, and features the largest one-day showcase of local makers in the North Texas region with more than 1,000 artists and 100 bands participating. Work is ongoing to establish additional affordable housing and workspaces for artists, expand anchor arts organizations, and build upon the commercial spaces for emerging creative companies.

In the Fifth Ward, art is a way of life. The Fifth Ward Cultural Arts District uses myriad strategies to preserve and build on the cultural legacies of the past, while also looking to art to navigate future challenges. By harnessing the power of a rich and amazing history in arts and culture, the district’s goal is to support economic and community growth. This means encouraging new businesses, growing existing businesses, creating jobs, preserving and celebrating all cultures within the Fifth Ward, and showcasing amazing creative talent and opportunities.

The Third Ward is the epicenter of Black art, culture and history in Houston. The Third Ward Cultural District (The Tre) enhances and references quality of life through the activation and cultivation of artistic resources for all the district’s residents, entrepreneurs, culture bearers and visitors. The Tre holds a vision of preserving, protecting, inspiring and sharing the artistic and cultural legacy of the historic Third Ward with current and future generations of artists and creatives through innovative arts and cultural engagement.

“We are pleased to highlight the wonderful work these districts are already doing to attract visitors to their communities, and to enhance the quality of life in our great state,” said Gary Gibbs, executive director of TCA. “Each approved cultural district provided extensive information on their qualifications, and was considered through a highly rigorous review process. We congratulate them on this achievement.” For complete information on the Cultural Districts Designation Program, please visit http://www.arts.texas.gov/initiatives/cultural-districts/.

Each new cultural district will host an event when it is safe to gather in person, where TCA representatives will provide a proclamation marking the official designation.


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