Photo by Trish Badger
The plan provides an outline for the cultural development of Houston’s oldest neighborhood over the next decade
Today, the East End District announced the adoption of a Cultural Arts Strategic Plan that will provide a framework for cultivating the cultural landscape of Houston’s East End over the next ten years. Created by Houston-based art advisory firm Weingarten Art Group (WAG), the plan is the result of seven months of research, analysis and community outreach to East End residents, business owners, artists, cultural activists, historians and more. The plan was made possible by a grant from the City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs and was officially adopted by the East End District Board of Directors on November 19, 2020.
“Though the East End has a rich cultural history, it has remained an underfunded and underserved community when it comes to the arts,” said Lea Weingarten, Principal of Weingarten Art Group. “That’s why this strategic plan is so important. It is designed to engage and inspire leadership and presents practical steps to achieve arts-focused goals over the next decade and beyond.”
The oldest neighborhood in Houston, the East End consists of tight-knit communities, a vibrant arts scene and a robust business district. In 2014, the Greater East End Management District (now East End District) established the East End Houston Cultural District (EEHCD) and developed the East End Cultural Designation Plan to create a sense of place in the neighborhood and designate the Navigation Esplanade as a central hub for art, history and community. Improvements realized by that plan include the launch of the new Chicano Art Space (in a former YWCA Building on Navigation Boulevard); the installation of numerous murals, including “Welcome to the East End Houston” by local artists Donkeeboy and Donkeemom; a host of new festivals, including the Clamato Michelada Festival, TacoWorld and H-town Barbeque Bonanza; and the addition of several new bars and restaurants into the neighborhood.
The Cultural Arts Strategic Plan created by WAG is an extension of that effort, presenting a definitive roadmap to help the EEHCD curb culturally insensitive development, overcome the gap in funding to Hispanic artists and art organizations and rectify the absence of dedicated and readily available venues for art and artists in the area. As the East End continues to grow, the plan will ensure that the community’s vast unique cultural offerings—including ballet folklórico, contemporary dance, bilingual theatrical productions, mariachis and over 120 murals—are protected, celebrated and cultivated.
“The presence of art has burgeoned throughout neighborhoods in the Greater East End community since the establishment of the East End Houston Cultural District in 2014,” said Veronica Chapa Gorczynski, Executive Director of the East End Houston Cultural District. “We are elated to present a community-based plan that builds on that momentum and will help develop the East End’s rich cultural landscape for years to come.”
To develop the Cultural Arts Strategic Plan, WAG solicited public feedback by issuing a bilingual survey to hundreds of community members, holding multiple virtual meetings with focus groups and advisory groups and conducting numerous interviews with stakeholders from around the District. WAG’s principal recommendations are organized around four topics: Venues and Improvements (“Dale Shine”), Programming (“Mi Calle”), Collaboration (“Thriving Together”) and Leadership, Administration + Communications (“Building on Our Heritage”).
Highlights of the 84-page plan include recommendations to:
- Revitalize Talento Bilingue de Houston (TBH) to establish a cultural venue in the East End that can be consistently utilized for outreach, performances and programming, and improve adjacent Guadalupe Plaza with an artist-designed outdoor stage and related essential amenities.
- Establish vibrant public gateways as markers to the District
- Launch “Calle de Colores,” a mile-long stretch of warehouse buildings on Navigation that provide empty canvases for street art, murals and lend themselves to festival programming.
- Pursue funding and programming support via foundation grants for the District and micro-grants for artists, makers and arts organizations
- Hire a Cultural Arts Administrator to serve as the executor of the plan and as the main point of contact for artists, makers and partners in the District
- Advocate for and support cultural development across all sectors of the District, especially in historically under-programmed, easternmost neighborhoods
- Focus on new, dedicated cultural programming for youth and seniors, including the establishment of an “East End Teen Arts Council” and a senior oral history/storytelling program to preserve cultural memories
WAG has developed multiple strategic master plans for public spaces and entities over the past eight years, collaborating with architects, design teams and community stakeholders to seamlessly integrate art and encourage public gathering. WAG has designed and implemented plans for public spaces across the region including Houston’s Discovery Green Park, Downtown Arts District, Hermann Park Conservancy and the University of Houston System. As the company expands, current projects in progress range from New Jersey and Michigan to Corpus Christi, Texas.
An executive summary of the East End Cultural Arts Strategic Plan can be downloaded here, along with visuals and additional background. Direct all fundraising inquiries to the East End Improvement Corporation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the East End Houston Cultural District
In 2014, the Texas Commission on the Arts officially designated Houston’s East End as a Texas cultural district, allowing tourists and local residents to explore the artistic value present in the East End community. The East End Houston Cultural District boasts one of the largest collections of outdoor murals in the city of Houston and is home to more than 30 arts and culture institutions, artist studios, showrooms and design and fabrication shops. The District is rich in historical sites and structures that connect the community to its heritage, as well as culinary traditions that offer visitors a taste of the best food Houston has to offer. Read more about the history of Houston’s East End at eastendhouston.com.
About Weingarten Art Group
Weingarten Art Group is an art advisory firm based in Houston, Texas, that stands at the intersection of art and strategy. The consultancy partners with clients and artists across the region and around the world to plan, curate, develop, and manage public and private art collections of every size and scope. With an emphasis on strategic planning for public venues and commercial clientele, WAG works with individuals, institutions, and businesses between to realize projects that add beauty and value to the remarkable spaces they distinguish. For more information, please visit weingartenartgroup.com.