Creative sector helps drive Amarillo’s economic performance.
Amarillo, the commercial hub of the Texas Panhandle, owes its early economic success to cattle, oil and gas, rail and grains. These days, targeted economic clusters in the metropolitan area—now home to about 250,000 people—are aviation and aerospace, business and financial services, manufacturing, transportation and logistics, and food processing.
Another economic spark continues to ignite Amarillo: the creative sector. In recent years, the region has gained prominence as a cultural arts destination.
One of the catalysts for Amarillo’s higher profile in the arts world is the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts, a venue that opened in 2006 on a previously vacant downtown lot. Public and private funds enabled construction of the $32 million center. The city-operated facility, which sits across from the Amarillo Civic Center, features a 1,300-seat auditorium that hosts symphony concerts, theatrical performances, ballets and many other performing arts events.
Today, the Globe-News Center is an anchor for downtown revitalization. Since the debut of the center, downtown office vacancies have declined, renovation projects have been undertaken and the city is planning several nearby projects, including a convention center hotel, a multiuse ballpark and an aquatic center.
The Amarillo region’s approach to the arts involves:
- Supporting the performing arts center.
- Redeveloping downtown Amarillo through the arts and entertainment.
- Expanding arts education initiatives.
- Maximizing the Amarillo area’s tourism opportunities.
One component of this strategy is the “TEXAS” musical drama, which is staged at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, 27 miles southeast of Amarillo. The long-running musical draws 60,000 to 80,000 visitors each year. In 2009, “TEXAS”-related tourism spending generated $17.5 million for the Amarillo area, including the town of Canyon, as well as $5.5 million in wages and 233 permanent jobs.
The Globe-News Center’s Window on a Wider World (WOWW) arts education program represents another facet of the region’s economic strategy for the arts. When it launched as a pilot project in 2005, the WOWW program served 2,700 students. In 2009, WOWW drew 14,400 students from more than 40 schools across the region.
Keys to the Amarillo area’s success in creating economic benefits from the arts include:
- Stressing that the Globe-News Center is not just for the ballet, opera and symphony—it’s for the entire community.
- Emphasizing the link between the arts and economic development.
- Fostering cooperation among local arts groups.
- Underscoring collaboration among government, business and arts interests.
- Communicating regularly with stakeholders.
- Developing and maintaining public-private partnerships.
- Establishing a dedicated income stream for upkeep of public and private infrastructure.
- Cultivating arts supporters.
Special thanks to:
- Sherman Bass, Manager, Amarillo Civic Center & Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts
- Patricia A. Bryant, Chair, Texas Commission on the Arts
- Melissa Dailey, AICP, Executive Director, Downtown Amarillo Inc.
- Sandra and Bill Gilliland, Gilliland Family Foundation
- Vince Hernandez, General Manager, Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation
- Laura Street, Founding Executive Director, Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts; Nonprofit Management Consultant
- Ali Tiegs, Executive Director, Window on a Wider World
- Guy C. Vanderpool, Director, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum
- Becky Zenor, VP of Quality of Life & Arts, Amarillo Chamber of Commerce
We would also like to thank
- Helene Botsonis, Amarillo Little Theatre
- Chip Chandler, Amarillo Symphony
- Bonnie Kellogg, Window on a Wider World
- Angela Knapp, Lone Star Ballet
- Gary Molberg, Amarillo Chamber of Commerce
- David O’Dell, Amarillo Opera