On September 7, 2016, Texas Commission on the Arts unanimously voted to designate Waco a State of Texas Cultural District. Huge thanks go out to all who helped make this bid successful and to all who will carry this vision forward! 

"If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an entire city to raise a cultural district." This is the video that introduced Waco's application to be designated a Cultural District.

Over the last year, Creative Waco has been busy gathering cultural organizations and community leaders to help Waco become the cultural hub it deserves to be.

Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA), our state arts agency, has a cultural district designation program that recognizes communities taking an active approach to growing and investing in their creative and artistic life. Here's what TCA says on its website:

"A thriving creative sector is a powerful economic development asset. Cultural district development is one strategy that helps a community boost economies while realizing other cultural and civic benefits. The outcomes of cultural districts extend beyond the arts and benefit all members of a community."

The process of building an application to become a recognized cultural district helped us to develop a strategy for growing Waco's cultural and creative sector in a thoughtful, coherent, sustainable way by building on the things our community already does best. 


  Game Day   |   Joel Edwards

Game Day Joel Edwards

1. What is a Cultural District, and what can be found there?

A cultural district is a designated area within a community that spotlights art, culture and entertainment. It is an area where residents and tourists can experience the unique character of a city.

Waco’s Cultural District contains museums, art galleries, public art, performance venues and restaurants and bars serving locally produced food, wine, beer — even award-winning whisky. There are numerous stores selling locally designed and manufactured art, crafts, home furnishings, clothing and jewelry. Cultural attractions include a thriving riverside farmer’s market, diverse festivals, live music, exhibitions, poetry readings and events for the whole family. We even have a trolley that takes visitors to various businesses and attractions in the area so no part of our lovely Downtown is missed!

  Moon over Magnolia  | Fiona Bond

Moon over Magnolia | Fiona Bond

2. What are some benefits of establishing a Cultural District?

Now that we are a cultural district designation, it will put Waco "on the map" as a cultural destination and open new doors for:

  • FUNDING to grow Waco’s cultural organizations and cultural identity. In 2015, cultural districts received state investment of $5 million and succeeded in using this investment to attract additional resources.

  • RECOGNITION of the importance of the arts and cultural sector in our community. Successful cities are culturally vibrant cities. This application helps to engage Waco’s citizens, businesses and other stakeholders in the conversation about how arts and cultural organizations enhance quality of life and economic success.

  • PROMOTION of Waco as a vibrant cultural destination at state level and beyond. Texas cultural districts are promoted as great destinations.

  • OPPORTUNITIES for companies and individuals to choose Waco as a place to live, work and thrive: Cities that have a thriving cultural life are more successful at retaining talent and attracting new companies.

3. Where is Waco’s Cultural District?

State guidelines recommend that a cultural district be a walkable, connected area with a concentration of cultural activity and incentives for development. The Waco Downtown Cultural District spans the Brazos River, encompassing our Historic and Main Street designated zones on both banks. This area was chosen because it contains the greatest concentration of entertainment venues, retail, restaurants, festivals, museums, public art, and cultural and historic landmarks, as well as incentives to attract new cultural businesses, events and assets.  Key attractions within the Cultural District are connected by the DASH free bus service and our wonderful bike trails/lanes.

The Cultural District boundaries also benefit from being in Waco's Public Improvement District and Tax Incremental Fund zones. These incentivize new development and promote opportunities for dining, housing, and retail shopping in a clean and safe central business district.

Proposed Waco Downtown Cultural District Map

  East Waco Library Mural     |  David Lowenstein

East Waco Library Mural David Lowenstein

4. Will organizations & businesses outside the Cultural District lose out?

No! When we promote Waco as a cultural destination, residents and visitors become more aware of ALL the great things Waco has to offer. The beauty of the Cultural District is that it is a concentrated area of attractions that can be easily explored by foot, bike or bus. However, this won’t stop us promoting the whole of Waco as a city alive with wonderful cultural experiences. MCC and Baylor Campuses both offer fantastic performances and exhibitions throughout the year, and what visitor would want to miss the Zoo, Mayborn or Mammoth Site?

  Signing the Letter of Intent   | Keith Kusler

Signing the Letter of Intent | Keith Kusler

5. Where is Waco in the application process?

Waco's full application to be a Texas Commission on the Arts designated Cultural District was submitted in June 2016. On September 7, 2016 we heard the wonderful news that the application had been successful. Waco Downtown Cultural District was officially designated by TCA Executive Director, Dr. Gary Gibbs on October 1, 2016.

  Cultural District Task Force      | Julina Macy

Cultural District Task Force  | Julina Macy

6. Who wrote Waco's application?

A Cultural District Task Force was gathered. Its hard-working members represent Waco's civic, cultural, education, business and community interests. This group is now known as the Cultural District Committee. 

A wonderful group of students from Baylor Film & Digital Media Department put together a short video summarizing the application. It was submitted with the complete, printed application to TCA on June 15. You can view the video at the top of this page.

  Waco Collage   |  Art on Elm

Waco Collage Art on Elm

7. How can I find things to do in Waco Downtown Cultural District?

Easy! There's a great online calendar that will introduce you to events, venues, activities, festivals and hidden gems. You can search according to your interests and it's linked to google maps. Check it our HERE.

We also recommend that you check our CALENDAR round-up page because there is such a lot going on in our community. You won't want to miss the excellent reviews, blogs and comments from our friends at Waco Trib, Act Locally Waco or Wacoan Magazine, for example. 

And then our local NPR station, KWBU and our local TV stations are also great resources for hearing the latest on "drop everything and show-up" happenings. ENJOY!

8. How can I be involved?

The are so many practical and FUN ways you can help Waco’s newly designated Cultural District grow and be successful. We'd love you to be involved! Welcome aboard.

  • SIGN UP to receive information and tell us how you’d like to be involved.

  • BUY A TOTE. Snag a canvas Creative Waco bag as proof of your support for a thriving creative sector in Waco. Each bag we sell is a voice on the streets of Waco, telling others about the incredible cultural gem that the city is to Central Texas.

  • HAVE YOUR SAY. Take part in our online survey and tell us what you love best about Waco.

  • DO COOL STUFF. Support the Cultural District by getting your artistic and cultural kicks in Waco! Buy art from some of the terrific artists living and working here. Enjoy Waco’s theater, music, food, and spirits with family, friends and clients. Shop locally at the Farmer’s Market and downtown retail stores. Check out these calendars to find fun events, and the Creative Directory to find arts and cultural organizations, or our searchable Creative Summer Camp calendar (which is live March-September). 

  • PROMOTE WACO'S CULTURAL GEMS. Write a review on TripAdvisor or Yelp!, or share a great experience on social media using #creativewaco and we will re-post if we can. If you have more to say, try writing for our blog page!

  • DONATE. Support the vision of a cultural district for Waco and the hard work it takes to make it a reality. Thank you!