Abilene Cultural District grant will fund downtown lighting projects


The schematic designs for two Downtown Abilene venues were created by Los Angeles-based Lightswitch, which has created designs for world class venues such as Chicago’s Morton Arboretum and the “Enchanted Forest of Light” at Descanso Gardens near Los Angeles (pictured).

ABILENE, Texas (News Release) – The Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA) has approved funding of 43 Arts Respond Cultural District Project grants for fiscal year 2020, including a project for the Abilene Cultural District in the amount of $112,000. The matching grant will fund the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council’s “Lights, Camera, Action” project designed to enhance Minter Park and Adamson-Spalding Storybook Garden with colorful theatrical tree lighting, digital projection equipment, a limestone screen suitable for movies or performance backdrop, and security cameras.

The schematic designs for both venues were created by Los Angeles-based Lightswitch, which has created designs for world class venues such as Chicago’s Morton Arboretum and the “Enchanted Forest of Light” at Descanso Gardens near Los Angeles.

The Abilene Cultural Affairs Council hopes the new lighting features will create an uptick in downtown cultural tourism. The lighting will be able to change color and intensity to create a variety of moods and backdrops.

“A visit downtown, particularly at night, will become more immersive and memorable,” said Lynn Barnett, executive director of the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council, which is an affiliate of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce.

The council is partnering with the City of Abilene, which is renovating Minter Park. Barnett said the goal is to debut the lighting for the Storybook Garden at the Dec. 6 Christmas in the Garden event. Work on Minter Park should be completed in time for the 2020 Children’s Art & Literacy Festival in June.

The money from TCA is a matching grant, and Barnett said a significant portion of the funds has generously been provided by Adamson Charities. The Cultural Affairs Council is seeking donations to cover the balance.

The TCA cultural district grants totaled over $4.6 million, and in addition to Abilene, will support arts nonprofits and local government agencies in 19 other cultural districts: Amarillo, Arlington, Canadian, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Galveston, Houston, Lubbock, McKinney, Rockport, San Angelo, San Antonio, Waco and Wimberley. The grants range from $5,500 to $250,000.

“We are pleased to be able to provide strong support for so many high-profile arts activities across the state,” said Gary Gibbs, executive director of TCA. “The substantial work that our grantees are doing not only advances the arts in Texas, but it attracts visitors and additional dollars to our state and local economies.”

The Arts Respond Cultural District Project grants are offered to eligible arts organizations in designated cultural districts for projects that focus on significant cultural tourism efforts through activities such as marketing, infrastructure, and major events. The projects use the arts to diversify local economies, generate revenue, and attract visitors and investment. The 43 approved grants were among 59 applications reviewed and scored by a panel of evaluators with expertise in the arts, cultural districts, marketing, tourism and economics. Cultural districts are special zones designated by TCA that harness the power of cultural resources to stimulate economic development and community vitalization. These districts can become focal points for generating business, attracting tourists, stimulating cultural development and fostering civic pride. Currently, there are 43 official cultural districts in Texas.

These awards are the first given through the Arts Respond Cultural District Project grant program in two years, the result of renewed support of the program by the 2019 Texas Legislature. The Arts Respond Cultural District Projects are funded through a $10 million legislative increase for cultural tourism grants in TCA’s budget for the 2020-2021 biennium.

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