Hot spot for the arts

Downtown neighborhood earns cultural designation from state of Texas

Downtown neighborhood earns cultural designation from state of Texas

The Mohawk venue Defend Red River
The Red River Cultural District is now recognized by the state. Mohawk Austin/Facebook

Austin has a new state-sanctioned cultural district. The Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA) approved the designation of Red River Cultural District as one of five official new cultural districts around the state, announced September 3.

Also joining the list are Dallas' Deep Ellum, 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). Texas now has 48 designated cultural districts.

“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,” says Gary Gibbs, executive director of TCA, in a release. 

Cultural districts are defined by TCA as special zones that "harness the power of cultural resources to stimulate economic development and community revitalization," the release says. They are focal points for generating business, attracting tourists, stimulating cultural development, and fostering civic pride, TCA explains. 

Only Texas Commission on the Arts can officially designate cultural districts on behalf of the state, and neighborhoods must go through a rigorous application and approval process. The stretch of Red River Street between Sixth and Eighth streets was declared a cultural district by the City of Austin in 2013.

“Each approved cultural district provided extensive information on their qualifications, and was considered through a highly rigorous review process," Gibbs says. "We congratulate them on this achievement." 

TCA applauded Red River for its many cultural merits, saying:

"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."

Cultural districts are are not only marketable tourism assets for cities, but they and their qualifying resident arts organizations may apply for significant Cultural District Project funding through TCA.

Each new cultural district will host an event when in-person gatherings can happen safely again. TCA representatives will be on hand to provide an official proclamation.