Longview arts organizations will receive almost $200,000 from the Texas Commission on the Arts with the money supporting performances, art installations and major transformations in the Arts!Longview cultural district.

Much of the money coming to local organizations wouldn’t have been available if it weren’t for Longview’s cultural district designation. Longview received the designation in 2019, with the district spanning from downtown east to the Historic Train Depot and then south down Mobberly Avenue to LeTourneau University.

The local grants are among 976 statewide worth $11.6 million that were approved by the Texas Commission on the Arts in the first round of funding for fiscal year 2022. The money is going to nonprofit organizations and government agencies in 121 Texas cities.

The Longview Museum of Fine Arts, Arts!Longview, ArtsView Children’s Theater and Longview Symphony League received the largest local grants in a segment of the funding dedicated to projects in the cultural district.

The Longview Museum of Fine Arts’ grant includes $61,792 that will go toward renovations of the museum’s planned new home in the former Longview National Bank and Regions Bank building at the corner of Fredonia and Methvin streets in downtown. The museum previously received $87,300 from the commission for the project.

“We’re thrilled,” museum Executive Director Tiffany Jehorek said. “It’s for the renovation of the building, and we couldn’t have applied for it unless we were a cultural arts district.”

It’s one of the larger grants awarded across the state. The grants require organizations to provide a local match.

Jehorek said the project is estimated to cost about $8 million, and the museum has raised about $3 million toward that goal. Tentative plans, depending on numerous factors, would see the museum move from Tyler Street to the bank building in January 2023.

“(The commission) was thrilled about the possibility of what we can to do to enhance the cultural district,” Jehorek said.

Much of the art museum’s first grant went toward architectural fees, she said.

The second grant will fund work that could start around the first of the year, and that would include signage and some interior work.

“We’re still in the planning phases,” Jehorek said, including deciding if and how the work will be phased once bids for the project show the final price tag.

“This is no small feat. It will really change the dynamics of downtown. I think it will be a regional destination,” she said. The building will attract people who are interested in art, but its architecture, the way it will be repurposed so that the banking features are highlighted, also will draw people, she said. She’s also hoping to have a restaurant on the roof.

“I think it’s going to be the place to be,” she continued.

The $55,000 that Arts!Longview will receive is its second grant from the commission, with Executive Director Cynthia Hellen explaining it will go toward several projects, including a project at the Historic Train Depot at Mobberly and Pacific avenues.

Hellen, who is the first executive director for Arts!Longview, has announced she is retiring. The organization is looking for a replacement to start Nov. 1.

The depot project will help expand cultural district recognition, she said.

“That’s one of the things we really want to do this year is to start expanding, just kind of move the knowledge of the cultural district just beyond the basic 100 Acres of Heritage,” Hellen said, referring to the original Longview town site. “100 acres is really where ArtWalk has traditionally been, but (the cultural district) is really bigger than just that footprint. It goes to Mobberly or Sixth Street and down to LeTourneau. That whole trip of Mobberly Avenue that connects downtown and LeTourneau is actually cultural district.”

The grant will provide a match to funding provided by the Hubbard-Whatlington Foundation for the project at the depot. Griff Hubbard, who for decades was the face of Longview’s Amtrak service at the depot, said his family’s foundation was created in 2005 and provided the first $25,000 toward the depot’s renovation.

“Our wonderful depot, our marvelous depot, and I can’t say enough superlatives — the inside has never been decorated,” Hubbard said, adding that it intentionally wasn’t part of the original restoration. To keep true to the building’s time period, it’s painted a plain color inside.

The wall space could be used to hang art that promotes Longview, Gregg County and the history of the railroads of Longview, Hubbard said. He said the project also would include artwork on a fence that’s already there depicting the logos of all the railroad companies that have served Longview in its more than 150 years.

Hellen said Arts!Longview also would use the commission grant for two outdoor sculptures. She’s not sure yet where they’ll be located.

The money also will likely go toward a third entryway monument near LeTourneau University.

Funding for ArtsView Children’s Theatre includes $32,697 “to support facility enhancements to improve accessibility, safety, and the number of visitors to the Arts!Longview Cultural District.”

The Longview Symphony League will receive funding that includes $16,500 “to support programming aimed at highlighting and celebrating Black culture through arts and education in the Arts!Longview Cultural District.”

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