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Cultural Districts Designation Program

Designation Opportunity for Texas Arts Organizations
and Agencies to Foster Economic Development

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Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA)

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A program is available to Texas nonprofit arts organizations, government agencies, and college arts institutions to designate special zones in their cities as cultural centers. LOIs are due January 30. The purpose of this program is to use cultural resources as a tool to revitalize communities and spur economic development.

As authorized by H.B. 2208 of the 79th Legislature, the Texas Commission on the Arts can designate cultural districts in Texas. In this program, an organization by itself or representing a collaborative effort will file an application to recognize their cultural district.

Successful applicants will have access to Arts Respond Projects and Arts Respond Cultural District Projects. When a cultural district is designated by the Texas Commission on the Arts, a recertification will be required every ten (10) years. Annual reports on activities are required to maintain Designation status.

As authorized by H.B. 2208 of the 79th Legislature, the Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA) 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 cultural development and fostering civic pride.

Goals of Cultural Districts:

TCA recognizes that a thriving creative sector is a powerful economic development asset. Cultural district development is one strategy that helps a community boost their economies while realizing other cultural and civic benefits. The outcomes of cultural districts extend beyond the arts and benefit all members of a community.

Goals may include:

-Attracting artists and cultural enterprises to the community. Artists, cultural institutions and creative enterprises all contribute to a community’s economic potential. Not only do they generate direct economic activity, but artists and creative entrepreneurs infuse communities with energy and innovation.

-Encouraging business and job development. Cultural districts can create a hub of economic activity that contributes to the community being an appealing place to live, visit and conduct business. A thriving cultural scene helps an area to prosper when consumers drawn to cultural attractions patronize other nearby businesses. This can result in the creation of new economic opportunities and jobs.

-Addressing specific needs of a community. Cultural districts are a highly adaptable economic development approach that allows a community to make use of unique conditions, assets and opportunities.

-Establishing tourism destinations. Cultural districts are marketable tourism assets that highlight the distinct identity of a community and encourage in-state, out of state, and international visitors.

-Preserving and reusing historic buildings. Some cultural districts are very involved in historic preservation. Adaptive reuse and rehabilitation of older buildings through preservation tax credits can result in structural and façade improvements. These rehabilitated buildings provide opportunities for affordable artist live/work space and new homes for cultural organizations.

-Enhancing property values. Successful districts combine improvements to public spaces (such as parks, waterfronts and pedestrian corridors) along with property development. The redevelopment of abandoned properties, historic sites, and recruiting businesses to occupy vacant spaces can contribute to reduced vacancy rates and enhanced property values.

-Fostering local cultural development. The establishment of a cultural district provides a focal point for celebrating and strengthening a community’s cultural identity. Cultural districts highlight existing cultural amenities and work to recruit and establish new artists, cultural industries and organizations.

Local Challenges:

Every cultural district is unique, but the following challenges can occur in districts large and small and in rural, urban and suburban areas:

-Gentrification is an unintended consequence of success. Displacement of existing residents can lead to the loss of a region’s unique and authentic identity and diminish local support.

-Staffing and administration prove to be one of the most common challenges for local districts. Many districts are staffed as part-time or volunteer positions.

-Financing and securing funding for districts is one of the most difficult challenges a local district administrator faces. Even when creative partnerships are used to augment resources, funds for planning and promoting local districts can be difficult to secure.

-Relevance to local residents needs to be considered with equal respect to efforts that attract tourism. Districts face hardship when they do not have the support of their own community.

-Long-term planning contributes to the success of districts. Planning and evaluation of local efforts can be time consuming and demand extra resources but are crucial to sustaining a local district.

Success Factors for Cultural Districts:

The ideas below have been identified as common success factors among cultural districts, and may serve as indicators for potential success:

-A unique and authentic identity that highlights what is special about the district and the community is in place.

-Community support of the district is in place to ensure continued success.

-Strategic partnerships have been brokered that result in a variety of resources.

-Inclusive cultural and strategic planning has been completed that articulates a vision for the cultural district and the broader community.

-A district has sustainable artist live/work spaces that provide artists with a productive environment.

-A local developer has committed to the cultural district and understands the power of arts and culture in community and economic development.

-Anchor institutions and special events are in place and they are the cornerstones of the community and the district.

-Artists are partners, not products, and are valued as members of the community.

-Artist recruitment is an organized effort that shows how a community is willing to welcome new artists and facilitate their establishment.

-Events and venues are accessible to ensure that participation available to all of the community and visitors.

-Clear signage is in place so visitors and the community can recognize the boundaries. The signage can be enhanced with distinctive logos, maps and other visual materials.

-A user-friendly website with comprehensive information about the district is available for the community and for visitors.

-Marketing and promotion efforts are in place to attract visitors, potential residents and new businesses.

-Strong amenities such as restaurants, lodging and recreation bolster the efforts of the cultural district.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 164506


Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Eligible Applicants: Established Arts Organizations, Local Arts Agencies, Government Local Arts Agencies, Established Minority Arts Organizations, Government Agency or Department, College Arts Institutions

To be eligible for TCA grants, an organization must:
-Be a tax-exempt nonprofit organization as designated by the Internal Revenue Service and/or must be an entity of government
-Have their eligibility status established with the TCA prior to the deadline day; know that it can take two weeks or more to get confirmation from the IRS of nonprofit status and 990 financial information which may be required for categorization
-Inform TCA if they believe their eligibility status has changed
-Be incorporated in Texas
-Have fulfilled all its outstanding contractual obligations to the State of Texas (i.e. taxes, etc.)
-Comply with regulations pertaining to federal grant recipients including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, the Education Amendments of 1972, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and the Drug Free Workplace Act of 1988.

The Commission will not fund the following:
-Grants that exceed 25% of the organization's previous year's cash operating revenues
-Social functions, parties, receptions, fundraisers, or galas
-Operating expenses for home offices
-Operating expenses for state operated facilities including, but not limited to, salary support and facility costs
-Activities for which college or university students receive academic credit
-Projects at colleges and universities that serve mostly students and faculty, with minimal or no community involvement
-Projects by privately owned for-profit corporations
-Financing of political activities
-Retroactive funding
-Debt reduction
-Projects, productions, workshops and/or programs that include obscene material as defined in Section 43.21, Penal Code of Texas.

Pre-Application Information:

TCA staff will accept draft applications for review and comment up to two weeks before the deadline.

Applicants must schedule an orientation meeting and work closely with Commission staff in the development of their application.

The Letter of Intent is due January 30.

Applications and attachments are due June 15.

Training Videos:

Program Guidelines:

General Guidelines and Policies:

Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Submit draft applications to:

Commission staff are available to consult with applicants by telephone at 512/463-5535 or 800/252-9415 (message line), or in person by appointment at 920 Colorado, 5th floor, Austin, Texas.

For more information, please contact:

Jim Bob McMillan

Texas Commission on the Arts
Post Office Box 13406
Austin, Texas 78711-3406

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Texas

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