The city of Texarkana, Texas, has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to allow the University of Arkansas Community Design Center and Marlon Blackwell Architects of Fayetteville to develop a downtown art park in the city.
The NEA Our Town grant will support Market Grounds, a cultural public space project focused on food, arts and the historic district. It will fund the design development and construction documents phases of this project.
“We are very pleased to be a part of the city’s effort to revitalize what is an incredible downtown,” said Steve Luoni, director of the Community Design Center, an outreach program of the UA Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design. Luoni is also a distinguished professor of architecture and the Steven L. Anderson Chair in Architecture and Urban Studies at the school.
“Though surrounded by prosperous suburban growth, Texarkana’s sleepy historic core contains outsized architectural treasures for a city of its size — a 1,400-seat, 1920s performance hall, a long-standing regional arts center, stately federal and municipal buildings, and highly livable downtown neighborhoods. The design team’s proposal draws on the city’s legacy in the visual and performing arts as well as a burgeoning local food scene to organize scattered investment in the downtown.”
Community Design Center and Blackwell designers propose to revitalize a downtown block in Texarkana by activating a space that connects city hall, the historic Regional Arts Center and the restored Perot Theatre.
Redeveloping the space — currently a surface parking lot — will prompt further investment in this downtown, which has lost much of its residential population over the last generation. The three civic buildings are elegant, pre-1920s neoclassical structures that do not face the site.
The design proposal consists of four key components, which will extend the social life of the adjoining cultural venues of the city, which has a population of 37,400:
- Farmers market
- Art walk
The farmers market will serve a thriving local food economy and double as covered parking for theater employees and patrons in the evenings. The bandshell and amphitheater will reintroduce outdoor events to downtown and house an art gallery and public restrooms underneath. The art walk will transform an existing alley into an illuminated and shaded walkway with freestanding display cases for artwork while also accommodating a splash pad.
City officials are working in partnership with the Texarkana Regional Arts and Humanities Council and the Housing Authority to conduct a community engagement process over the next five months based on the preliminary designs provided by the project team.
Marlon Blackwell is a Distinguished Professor and the E. Fay Jones Chair in Architecture for the school.
This is the second Our Town grant awarded to a collaborative project between the Community Design Center and Blackwell’s firm, and the fourth grant the center has received in the program’s five-year history.
Through the Our Town grants program, the NEA provides funding for arts-based community development projects that contribute toward the livability of communities and help transform them into lively, beautiful and sustainable places with the arts at their core. This year, 69 Our Town grants were awarded, totaling almost $5 million and supporting projects in 35 states plus Puerto Rico.
Image courtesy of University of Arkansas Community Design Center