Recently Plano residents and visitors alike were blessed with a substantial gift from members of Leadership Plano’s Class 37. On June 29 the class launched its permanent self-guided Plano Art Walk.
Every year, the Plano Chamber of Commerce facilitates Leadership Plano. The program runs from September through May, and each class goes through sessions learning how the city runs. It also engages in leadership development from time spent with city leaders and community professionals. Every Leadership Plano class finishes out its year with a project to benefit the community, and this year Class 37 voted to create the Plano Art Walk as its project.
Courtney Hitt, chairperson of Plano’s Cultural Affairs Commission and an artist herself, is the class member who has been overseeing the project. “Creating the Plano Art Walk has taken an interesting turn with everything going on [with COVID-19], but I was really fortunate that so many people who were integral from the beginning wanted to see it through anyways,” Courtney said. Each of the 30 classmates touched the project in some way, with members volunteering their time on marketing, writing, design, video, legal, public relations and government relations needs.
The goal of this project, ultimately, is to familiarize Plano residents – and perhaps visitors from nearby cities – with the rich arts and heritage scene in Plano. The tour has 25 stops across the downtown area, and can be done walking or driving. Historic buildings on the tour include Courtyard Theater, Cox Building, ArtCentre of Plano, the Interurban Railway Museum and more. Visitors will also have the chance to learn the stories behind murals, sculptures and other works of art throughout downtown.
It was important to Class 37 to highlight locations of artistic and historic significance in the Douglass Community, including Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, L.A. Davis Cemetery and the large mosaic mural, “Tracks of Our Past and Future,” that include visual references to important people and places in the neighborhood’s history.
“The Douglass Community has such a rich history and culture. We took time looking at the murals, parks and the historically Black church that stands there,” said Irum Rashid-Jones, who was in charge of diversity and inclusion for the project. “The Douglass Community helps shape the perception that art is all around us.”
Irum and her classmates worked directly with the Douglass Visions Committee and leaders in Plano’s historically Black neighborhood to ensure that the history of each piece was properly highlighted. “There’s a concept called the myth of absence: If you’re not talking about it, it didn’t happen. When we started compiling our list, we thought, ‘What do we want to make sure people don’t miss out on learning?’” Irum recalled.
“People who have lived here their whole lives may have no idea we have historic cemeteries, a full symphony, noted artists,” shared North Texas Performing Arts Managing Director and Plano Arts Coalition President Mike Mazur. “We want them to know that those things are here.”
The Plano Arts Coalition (PAC), an advocacy group working to advance the arts scene of its city, has worked closely with Class 37. PAC’s mission is to make Plano an arts destination. Though the city has inarguably become a hub for the arts, the Plano Art Walk will help highlight this.
“In the years since we’ve been promoting Downtown Plano as an historic arts district, occupancy has skyrocketed,” said Mike. “There are a lot of reasons to move here, but the arts scene is the reason to stay here.”
The positive economic implications of the tour are just an added bonus to all the benefits the Plano Art Walk creates for the community. During the pandemic, as individuals take themselves on the self-guided art tour of the city, they’re more likely to patronize any open retailers or restaurants – even if it’s just for a to-go meal or drink. After the pandemic is over, the Leadership Plano class hopes the tour will drive more activity to the downtown area.
“A hope we have is to have a set date each year when we invite people to do the walk simultaneously, and at various stops along the walk, we will have an arts group performing,” Mike said. “It could be an artist painting, a musician performing, a yoga class, an international act.”
Throughout the rest of the year, the Plano Art Walk can serve as an easy go-to activity for anyone looking for a way to enjoy their city. Take your kid on a scavenger hunt, celebrate a birthday with friends or make it date night. The arts have always been central to Plano’s identity, but thanks to Class 37’s art walk, every visitor and resident will now get a clearer taste of Plano’s culture.Plano Art Walk >
Members of Leadership Plano Class 37:
Abbie Alter, Greg Andrew, Jason Bell, Tara Bidwell, Corey Clark, Betsy Colter, Scott Cummins, Garry Evans, Katherine Goodwin, Courtney Hitt, LaStarr Hollie, Bri Huedepohl, Marty James, Raj Kohle, Brad Krocheski, Sara Lassberg, Brandon Maxey, Kathy Meadows, Emily Moore, Paulette Mulry, Don Proeschel, Karen Rhodes-Whitley, Brian Schwall, Pooja Singhania, John Stafford, Laura Starr, Yamaceeta Thompson, Theresa Williams, Brandi Youngkin