A group led by the Del Rio Chamber of Commerce is seeking a cultural district designation for downtown that may lead to grant availability and stimulate business in the area.
Megan Tackett, membership and outreach coordinator for the Del Rio Chamber of Commerce, said the cultural districts program is part of the Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA).
According to the TCA’s web site, the arts commission “can designate cultural districts in cities across Texas.”
“Cultural districts are special zones that harness the power of cultural resources to stimulate economic development and community revitalization. These districts can become focal points for generating businesses, attracting tourists, stimulating economic development and fostering civic pride,” the TCA site reads.
“The cultural districts include communities with a certain makeup of cultural outlets, so not just arts, necessarily, but museums, restaurants, theaters, galleries, parks, and so when you think of all of those outlets, you can’t help but think of downtown, because we have all those things,” Tackett said.
She said the push for the cultural district designation was initiated by Nancy O’Brien, executive director of the Del Rio Council for the Arts, who mentioned it during a meeting.
A committee was formed to further those efforts, Tackett said.
Tackett serves as the committee’s chair, and other members include Sarah West Sigmon, owner of Mesquite Creek Outfitters and a representative of the Main Street Program; Lupita De La Paz, executive director of the Casa De La Cultura; Nicki Carr of the Del Rio Council for the Arts, Josh Guevara of 88.5 FM and a member of the Main Street Program, and Debbie Guerra of the Del Rio Convention and Visitors Bureau. Griselda Martinez and Mary Mota of the San Felipe Exes and Michael Diaz of the Whitehead Memorial Museum attended the group’s last meeting, Tackett said.
The group’s first task will be to prepare a letter of intent to send to the TCA letting them know Del Rio plans to apply for the cultural district designation.
If Del Rio receives the designation, it will open the door for more grant and funding opportunities, Tackett said.
“Once you’re accepted into the program, you are eligible for matching grants,” Tackett said.
She also pointed out the district will work toward a variety of goals.
Tackett said the first project the group identified is expanding Del Rio’s First Friday Art Walk.
“For years, it’s been the four galleries – the Falcon Art Gallery, the Firehouse Gallery, Pam Bunch Gallery and the Casa De La Cultura Gallery – and that’s great, but we see an opportunity to include a lot more organizations downtown and a chance for businesses downtown to stay open and become part of this,” Tackett said.
The expanded art walk will debut Feb. 7, the first Friday in February, she said.
The Texas Community Bank’s Community Hall, she said, is slated to host an exhibit during the art walk and the Paul Poag Theatre will be open and hosting an event, and there will be a live band performing on South Main Street near the theater, Tackett said.
“The folklorico dancers from the Casa will give a performance, and the Kress building will be open and hosting an exhibit from the San Felipe Exes, and the Whitehead Memorial Museum will also have an exhibit opening that night, and there will be an event at the Brown Plaza,” Tackett said.
Another project is to improve the appearance of Canal Street between Pecan and the Barrio San Felipe Arch.
“It’s essentially the gateway to San Felipe, but we’ve identified it as an area that’s been kind of neglected,” Tackett said.
She said eventually the group will work toward bringing more public art, such as murals, to the downtown district.
The district will include Greenwood Park and St. James Church and School to the west, the Val Verde Winery to the south, north to Ogden Street and east to Garza Street.
“One of the hopes is that people and businesses will see everything that’s going on on Main Street and see how we’re improving the district, and want to move into the district,” Tackett said.