State grant access, communitywide focus and greater collaboration are coming to Longview after a state panel’s unanimous decision to designate the Arts!Longview Cultural District.

On Thursday morning, the Texas Commission on the Arts picked Longview, Denton and Beaumont to join 40 other cultural districts in the state.

Cultural districts are special zones that harness the power of cultural resources to stimulate economic development and community revitalization, and they can become focal points for generating businesses, attracting tourists, stimulating cultural development and fostering civic pride, according to information at arts.texas.gov .

Longview scored 968 of a possible 1,000 points on its application, making it the highest score among all six applicants this summer, Arts!Longview board chairwoman Nancy Murray said from Austin.

“I was sitting in the room when they voted,” Murray said. “I am thrilled. Longview is running on all cylinders right now, and the arts are taking the lead.”

As for scoring a 968, “We’re very proud of that score,” she said.

The designation culminates more than 17 months of planning, petitioning and putting pieces in place first to tell the state commission of Longview’s intent to apply for the designation and then to submit the application in June.

“The winners here are the citizens of Longview,” Murray said. “They’re the winners.”

A celebration hosted by Arts!Longview is scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. Oct. 10 in downtown Longview in conjunction with ArtWalk Longview. Arts and cultural group members, their boards, community leaders, elected officials and the public are invited to attend and celebrate the recognition of the district, according to the city.

The 342-acre district incorporates the core of Longview’s cultural arts facilities and performing venues, along with the Gregg County Courthouse, three historical churches, Longview Public Library, two parks, the historical train depot and the S.E. Belcher Jr. Chapel and Performance Center at LeTourneau University.

"LeTourneau University and the Belcher Center are thrilled to know the TCA selected Longview for the cultural district designation,” said Cynthia Hellen, senior director of LeTourneau University’s Belcher Center. “There is so much potential that can be tapped through the arts — for this community and its residents — and we are happy to be included in the district’s boundaries. We look forward to everything that will come from this effort.”

According to the state commission, the establishment of a cultural district requires a focus on the arts with carefully laid-out plans and collaboration among arts organizations, city and county government entities, businesses and citizens.A wide range of groups and residents pitched in on Longview’s application, including nine local arts groups, schools and colleges, real estate groups, churches and service organizations.

A meeting last October to gather input for the application drew about 150 people to Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center, and more than 90 people signed a letter of intent in support of the district during a ceremony in January at the J.T. Smith Sculpture Garden inside Pelaia Plaza in downtown Longview.

Statewide, 11 communities submitted letters of intent to apply for a cultural district designation, but only six communities actually submitted the application, Murray said.

”It was because of the citizens of Longview pulling together and working together to get this arts district,” she said. “I couldn’t be more excited. I’m thrilled for Longview. I’m thrilled for our arts.”

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