From the colorful sculptures on display along busy streets to the diverse mix of concerts, shows and art exhibits offered year-round, it’s easy to identify downtown Arlington as a growing cultural arts destination within the city.Now, the Downtown Arlington Management Corporation has its fingers crossed that the state will make that designation official.This summer, the DAMC submitted its second application to the Texas Commission on the Arts to have downtown Arlington designated as one of the state’s few Cultural Districts. It’s first attempt in 2014 was unsuccessful. The designation could open up state grant funding opportunities for programs and improvements designed to help downtown Arlington become even more attractive to artists, businesses, residents and tourists.Only 28 state cultural districts have been designated, with the closest being in Fort Worth and Dallas. Downtown Arlington Management Corporation President and CEO Tony Rutigliano is eager to see the American Dream City on that list.“As the seventh largest city in Texas, we have a very strong story to tell and a strong history of cultural arts in our community,” Rutigliano said. “Arlington has been around for 145 years and our history places an important part in our cultural heritage.”That history can be seen in Knapp Heritage Park, where visitors can visit log cabins and a one-room schoolhouse to get a glimpse of pioneer life, and at places like Fielder House Museum, where the stories about many of Arlington’s residents and events are collected, preserved and displayed.
But history isn’t the only thing downtown offers. The heart of the city is also home to free concerts at the Levitt Pavilion, which draws more than 130,000 people downtown each year. It’s also home to large and small festivals, the Arlington Museum of Art, Theatre Arlington, Arlington Music Hall, murals, fountains, artist studios and numerous cultural events at the University of Texas at Arlington. Recent public art additions to downtown include the Dream sculpture near the Levitt Pavilion as well as several sculptures that are part of the Arlington Museum of Art’s Star of Texas project.“In the last few years, a groundswell of community support, partnerships and investment is transforming Downtown into a highly visible cultural attraction for our city,” said Decima Cooper Mullin, Senior Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The establishment of this district by the Texas Commission on the Arts is a natural next step and we are excited about the future of arts in our community that will attract even more tourists to Downtown.”Supporting the arts is one facet of the Arlington City Council priority to Invest in Our Economy.“Arts and culture are part of a vibrant community. Having destinations that visitors and residents want to go to add value to our city,” Deputy City Manager Jim Parajon said.Arlington should learn if it is being recommended for the designation later this month, with a final announcement expected in September. Rutigliano said he’s optimistic that downtown will be successful this time.
“We’re a vibrant place. This state designation is important because it demonstrates we have a passion for the arts. By distinguishing ourselves from other places, we are creating unique opportunities for people and attracting artists into our community to set up shops and open galleries. That can promote tourism.”