At least 90 people signed their support Tuesday for a cultural arts district in Longview.

Arts and education representatives joined business and elected leaders for a ceremony at the J.T. Smith Sculpture Garden inside Pelaia Plaza in downtown Longview to sign the city’s letter of intent to pursue a 342-acre district they say will promote cultural and culinary arts while also giving local nonprofit groups new avenues to state, federal and foundation grant funding.

The cultural district would represent less than 1 percent of the city’s 56 square miles, but advocates said in their letter to members of the Texas Commission on the Arts that the district incorporates Longview’s core cultural arts facilities and performing arts venues, along with the Gregg County Courthouse, three historical churches, the library, two parks, the sculpture garden and the historical train depot.

“I really think this is going to happen for Longview,” said Nancy Murray, chairwoman of the 26-member Arts!Longview task force that is leading the application process.

The letter-signing ceremony was the first official act the city must take to apply to the Texas Commission on the Arts for the designation. Among the crowd was Karen Partee, a Texas Bank and Trust Co. executive vice president who is serving on the TCA commission through Aug. 31.

The letter, read by Arts!Longview member Jon Cromer, states that Longview sits in the heart of the East Texas Piney Woods and “is at the crossroads of Cajun and Texan cultures,” which creates a unique blended culture unlike other regions of the state.

The letter of intent must be received in Austin this month, and a full application is due to state commissioners by June 15, with Murray hopeful that a final decision will be made in late summer or early fall.

Meanwhile, Arts!Longview — with help from city staff — is continuing monthly meetings. One committee is setting up a tentative budget for the district for 2020, while a marketing committee is planning markers for entrances into the district — which will include 243 acres downtown, 80 acres surrounding the S.E. Belcher Jr. Chapel and Performance Center at LeTourneau University and the 20 acres along Mobberly Avenue and the Junction area.

The group already has created social media sites, branded itself with a logo, tested calendar structures for an Arts!Longview website and met with local arts organizations, among other acts. Advocates plan to use vacant downtown buildings for pop-up art initiatives, create a YouTube channel that features artists, events, historic dates and local groups, and create revenue-drivers such as festivals and tours highlighting photography, history, holiday lights or ghost walks.

“We’re trying to create enthusiasm for this, create awareness and maybe instill some curiosity about the process,” Murray said.

Melanie Northcutt Crocker, owner of Sugar Magnolia Properties, said a designated cultural district in Longview is exciting for the real estate industry, as people are moving to Longview in search of places to eat, places to go and anything that is a cultural aspect of the town.

“The idea of melting together and growing the love of art, music, dance, culinary and so many other expressive forms will be a great addition to all the other wonderful things Longview has to offer,” said Northcutt, whose office sits in the middle of the potential district. “When meeting with potential new homeowners to Longview, this is such a great selling point.”

How to get involved

To learn more about Arts!Longview, visit artslongview.org .

Letters of support for the cultural arts designation by the state can be mailed to: Dietrich Johnson, City of Longview, P.O. Box 1952, Longview, TX, 75606; or my email at djohnson@longviewtexas.gov .

To find out when and where cultural events are being held in Longview, visit http://artslongview.org/calendar.htm .

To reach out to the Arts!Longview task force, email info@artslongview.org .

Proposed cultural arts district

Jimmy Daniell Isaac covers the city of Longview and Gregg County. Follow him on Twitter: @jimmyisaaclives.