A special celebration with state and local dignitaries will give way to the largest-ever ArtWalk in Longview, as the city celebrates its designation as a cultural arts district Thursday.

Highlighting the four-hour fete across multiple locales is Gary Gibbs, executive director of the Texas Commission on the Arts. Gibbs will speak at the special celebration beginning at 4 p.m. at the former Regions Bank building at 213 N. Fredonia St., where the group Arts!Longview will office on the second floor, chairwoman Nancy Murray said.

State commissioners selected Longview and two other cities for cultural arts districts on Sept. 5. The city and Arts!Longview spent more than a year galvanizing support and completing an application to achieve the designation for a 342-acre district mostly covering downtown Longview but also two parks, the Longview Transportation Center and the S.E. Belcher Jr. Chapel and Performance Center at LeTourneau University.

“We want everybody to come down and help us celebrate,” Murray said. Gibbs “is coming from Austin to proclaim Arts!Longview the newest cultural arts district in Texas.”

Along with Gibbs, Longview Mayor Andy Mack, Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt and state Rep. Jay Dean, R-Longview, will speak.

Also during the ceremony, the Longview Chamber of Commerce will conduct a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Arts!Longview’s new office, Murray said.

“We’re going to wrap that up around 5, then dash across town to the City Council meeting (at City Hall), where (Gibbs) can make the proclamation at City Council,” Murray said, “and it’s my hope that (Gibbs) thanks the City Council for its support for helping Longview become a cultural arts district.”

The climax of the festivities is ArtWalk, scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. throughout downtown Longview.

“We’re going to have the biggest ArtWalk we’ve ever had. We have over 100 artists down there that night,” Murray said. “This is a big deal for Longview. This makes Longview the envy of many cities around the state, and it’s been the single most rewarding thing I’ve ever been involved with personally.”

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