A S K Y O U R A V E R A G E N O N - T E X A N what’s special about Houston and you’ll hear some rather familiar assertions. Houston is a place for great job opportunity and even greater barbecue. It’s home to one of the nation’s best rodeos and it’s where astronauts come to train. And, of course, no reputation precedes our status as a global leader in the energy sector. What you won’t hear is that Houston holds some impressive cultural claims as well. We have one of the nation’s top Theater Districts and several world-renowned art museums. We have far more park space than other cities of our size, and we have a thriving culinary scene. Houston is an incredibly diverse and in fact, extremely cultural place. But what many Houstonians themselves don’t even know is that recently we’ve become home to what is believed to be the highest concentration of working artists in the nation. Houston has become a true center for art-making. The core of these artists are working in the fledgling Washington Avenue Arts District, which now houses over 300 working studios within a half-mile radius. Over the last few years that number has boomed and there’s no sign of slowdown. More and more artists and creative entrepreneurs are moving to find their homes in one of the city’s greatest up-and-coming cultural hubs. It was this concentration of creative talent, combined with a culturally and historically rich past that inspired the community to submit an application for Cultural District designation. And in 2014, the state agreed that this is indeed a special place. The Washington Avenue Arts District is now a Texas Commission on the Arts sanctioned Cultural District. Now, with this wonderful distinction, the Washington Avenue Arts District is beginning to find its footing and voice in the Houston arts world and beyond. The Washington Avenue Arts District is one of five such designated areas in Houston. The others are the Museum District, the Theater District, Midtown and the East End. Anchor studio complexes include Winter Street, Spring Street, Silver Street, and Summer Street Studios, as well as the brand new Silos at Sawyer Yards. The area also includes live-work spaces such as Elder Street Artist Lofts and Center Street Studios. The District incorporates not only hundreds of creative studios but vast amounts of exhibition and special event space, and is also home to many individual artists’ residences and arts-focused institutions including Crockett Elementary, an award-winning fine arts school and MECA, a multicultural arts education center.
Happens in Houston:
Washington Avenue Arts District
by SUSANNAH MITCHEL
The Organization Currently a fiscally sponsored project of Fresh Arts, the Washington Avenue Arts District organization is in its formation phase. By the end of the calendar year it will be a stand alone 501c3 non-profit aimed at promoting the area’s greatest asset, the creatives. The mission is to preserve, promote and progress the District’s special creative offerings. Goals include weaving together the District’s arts, business, and residential communities to generate new opportunities, developing clear and consolidated area marketing, and contributing significantly to area beautification. The district boundaries are I 10 to its north, I 45 to its east, Buffalo Bayou to its south and Oliver Street to its west. As the project takes the leap from idea to organization, the strategic pathways are taking shape through the help of an advisory committee made up of area leaders from cultural organizations, civic groups, developers and, of course, artists.