Arts council gives Texarkana a solid base for success.

Texarkana, Texas, has gotten smart about the arts. By establishing the ArtSmart education program, nurturing the Perot Theatre and creating the Texarkana Regional Arts and Humanities Council, Texarkana has pumped energy – and money – into the community.

Operating expenditures and spending by out-of-towners on tickets, food, lodging and shopping at the Perot Theatre generated nearly $2.5 million in economic activity in 2009, more than $800,000 in earnings and about three dozen full-time jobs.

The Regional Arts and Humanities Council, with an annual budget of more than $1.5 million, is a hub for much of the arts activity in the Northeast Texas community. The nonprofit council operates the county-owned Regional Arts Center and the city-owned Perot Theatre.

Furthermore, the council has:

  • Worked with local school districts and the Texarkana Parks and Recreation Department to set up the “In the Style Of” project in 2008. The project lets students transform park trash barrels into original art that replicates the styles of famous artists. Officials say the program has reduced littering and vandalism. Total cost per barrel: $50.
  • Teamed up with the local Norton & Wood law firm to promote public art and creative spaces. Using private funding and the law firm’s donation of a piece of downtown land, the council built Art Wall Park. The park features removable panels that display original artwork from area schools each quarter.
  • Hosted the annual Holiday Arts Market. The free-to-the-public juried arts show draws people from a 100-mile radius of Texarkana to meet artists while viewing and buying the artists’ work. The market fills a void in Texarkana, which lacks for-profit art galleries.
  • Formed an advisory committee to engage the African-American community in the arts. Since the committee started in 2001, African-American participation in council-sponsored events, along with donations and memberships, has climbed.

One of the Regional Arts and Humanities Council’s marquee programs is ArtSmart, which serves more than 40,000 students from 66 campuses each year. Each participating student receives an introduction to the arts that boost skills and fosters the next generation of artists, cultural arts consumers and arts donors. Every school chips in $6 to $10 per student toward ArtSmart. During the 2009-10 academic year, ArtSmart hosted more than 15,000 students for performances at the Perot Theatre.

The council also runs the Perot Theatre, which was renovated in 1981. The venue has attracted more than 1.3 million attendees since then. The 1,600-seat historic Perot Theatre is the single largest entertainment attraction in downtown Texarkana. More than 36,000 people live in Texarkana.

Without public-private partnerships allowing it to use the Perot Theatre and Regional Arts Center at no cost, the Regional Arts and Humanities Council would have to shift resources away from programs like ArtSmart and the Holiday Arts Market, officials say.

View Texarkana’s case study. Or see the full “Art of Economic Development” economic report.

Some of the ways that Texarkana has been able to marry the arts and economic development include:

  • Using public-private partnerships as a foundation for the arts.
  • Concentrating arts groups and activities to help rejuvenate downtown Texarkana.
  • Improving local schools through arts education.
  • Supporting the Regional Arts and Humanities Council

Special thanks to:

We would also like to thank:

  • Mark Bledsoe, Texarkana Chamber of Commerce
  • Donna Chatman, TRAHC African-American Council
  • Genie Davis, Texarkana Chamber of Commerce
  • Theretha Harper, PhD, TRAHC African-American Council
  • Rep. Steve Harrelson, Arkansas House Majority Leader
  • Amanda Kelly, Texarkana Chamber of Commerce
  • Brian Matthews, TRAHC African-American Council
  • Charles Nickerson, Texarkana Chamber of Commerce
  • Bryan Phillips, Texarkana Regional Arts & Humanities Council
  • Jerry Sparks, City of Texarkana
  • Mary Starrett, Texarkana Regional Arts & Humanities Council
  • Larry Sullivan, PhD, City of Texarkana