Hot spot for the arts

Fort Worth's Near Southside earns prestigious new designation as cultural district

Near Southside earns prestigious new designation as cultural district

Near Southside Arts Waffles the Puppet by Jay Wilkinson and Brandon Pederson
Waffles and the Puppet by Jay Wilkinson and Brandon Pederson, displayed in the Near Southside. Photo courtesy of Near Southside, Inc
Arts Goggle, Fort Worth Near Southside
Arts Goggle is one of the most popular events of the year. Photo by Olaf Growald
Friday on the Green, Fort Worth Near Southside
Friday on the Green is a popular date night. Photo by Olaf Growald
Open Streets, Fort Worth Near Southside
Open Streets brings diverse performers. Photo by Olaf Growald
ArtsGoggle
Near Southside is a 1,400-acre district south of downtown. Photo courtesy of Near Southside Inc.
Near Southside Arts Waffles the Puppet by Jay Wilkinson and Brandon Pederson
Arts Goggle, Fort Worth Near Southside
Friday on the Green, Fort Worth Near Southside
Open Streets, Fort Worth Near Southside
ArtsGoggle

Cue the applause because Fort Worth now has two cultural districts. The Texas Commission on the Arts approved the designation of the city's Near Southside Arts (overseen by Near Southside, Inc.) as one of five official new cultural districts around the state, announced September 3.

Also joining the list are the Deep Ellum Cultural District in Dallas, Red River Cultural District in Austin, 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 Texas Commission on the Arts (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. 

What does this mean for the Near Southside district? Chiefly, that it creates new funding opportunities. Near Southside Arts and other nonprofits inside the district will be able to apply for TCA grants, and the district itself will be recognized by the state as a destination for arts investments.

“We’re proud that the Near Southside is gaining recognition as a hub for creativity and growth,” says Mike Brennan, Near Southside, Inc. president. “This community is filled with dreamers, artists, and risk-takers that deserve to be recognized, and we are so honored to see our thriving district receive this support and validation.”

The nearly 1,400-acre Near Southside includes the city's medical and design districts, and is a hot spot for local businesses, chef-driven restaurants, popular theaters, live music venues, art schools, and recording studios. Arts-centric events there — including ArtsGoggle, Open Streets, Friday on the Green, and Park(ing) Day — attract more than 100,000 attendees from around North Texas each year, the district says.

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.

“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 Fort Worth's district for its history-meets-future ethos, saying:

"Near Southside Arts has a long history of fostering and celebrating the creative assets of their 1,400 acre district. The Near Southside was established as a turn-of-the-century street car district founded by a rich community of makers and craftsmen. Today, the district holds tightly to those roots with the largest contiguous collection of Craftsman homes in the nation (Historic Fairmount) and boasts more than 200 locally-owned and operated artisan businesses. Now in its 18th year, ArtsGoggle is the district’s signature free-to-the-public event, and features the largest one-day showcase of local makers in the North Texas region with more than 1,000 artists and 100 bands participating. Work is ongoing to establish additional affordable housing and workspaces for artists, expand anchor arts organizations, and build upon the commercial spaces for emerging creative companies."

Megan Henderson, director of events and communications for Near Southside, Inc., says the prestigious designation underscores the district's commitment to prioritizing  cultural investment throughout its revitalization.

“We’re proud to see our creative community and unique Near Southside culture flourish for the past 25 years and now, with the support of TCA, we know Near Southside Arts will be an important catalyst as we begin our next chapter of growth,” she says.

To celebrate, Near Southside Arts has dubbed October "ARTober" and is setting up various events and virtual initiatives throughout the month. These include murals and public art unveilings, virtual concerts, digital artist residencies, and a partnership with Minneapolis-based nonprofit Artspace to study a proposed “Creative Incubator” development project that would bring yet another creative hub in the district, a news release teases. Intriguing!

Visit the Near Southside website for more details.