Houston’s oldest neighborhood launches plan to showcase its culture and preserve its legacy

Houston’s oldest neighborhood, the East End, is in the midst of an unprecedented renaissance. Now, a new plan matches will ensure the vibrant area will be culturally preserved as it grows.

The East End District announced a new Cultural Arts Strategic Plan, one that’s meant to provide a framework for cultivating the cultural landscape of the area over the next 10 years. This new plan is the result of seven months of research, analysis, and community outreach to area residents, business owners, artists, cultural activists, historians, and more, according to a press release.

Created by Houston-based art advisory firm Weingarten Art Group (WAG), the plan is backed by a grant from the City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs.

How will the plan work? In 2014, the East End Cultural Designation Plan was created to usher in a sense of place in the neighborhood and designate the Navigation Esplanade as a central hub for art, history, and community.

To that end, the Cultural Arts Strategic Plan created by WAG is an extension of that effort. It will present 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,” per press materials.

Additionally, as the East End continues to grow, the plan will showcase the area’s cultural offerings — including ballet folklorico, contemporary dance, bilingual theatrical productions, mariachis, and over 120 murals — are protected, celebrated and cultivated.

Highlights of the plan include:

  • 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 and murals and lend themselves to festival programming.

  • Pursue funding and programming support via foundation grants for the district and micro-grants for artists and arts organization.

  • 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.

“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, in a statement. “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.”

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