September 11, 2017 is a special date for the King William Association (KWA) and neighborhood.  It’s the sixth anniversary of the designation of the King William Cultural Arts District (KWCAD) by the Board of Governors of the Texas Commission on the Arts.

Ours was the first Cultural Arts District in San Antonio, and is distinguished by being one of few in the state that was sponsored by a neighborhood group and not a city government. Since then, Zona Cultural, sponsored by the City, was named San Antonio’s second cultural arts district in 2015.  This downtown district is supported by Centro San Antonio, a collection of downtown organizations with a goal to keep San Antonio vibrant. 

A CAD is a well-recognized, mixed-use area of a community in which a high concentration of cultural facilities is the anchor of attraction.  There are cultural districts throughout Texas in communities large (Houston has five, Austin has one) and small (Wimberley and Smithville, for example).  

Applicants must show the impact the designation will bring to the community, including artist advancement, tourism, job creation and an increased tax base.  In the King William neighborhood, we demonstrated how the arts attract residents and visitors who support museums, galleries, businesses, and lodging and dining establishments.  Art venues and activities can be a key incentive for new and relocating businesses.  The synergy created by this mix contributes to the creativity and innovation of a community. 

The KWA Public Art Committee (now called the Cultural Arts Committee) was established in 2009 with the mission to “improve the quality of life by promoting educational, cultural and recreational pursuits and activities.”  Molly Shafer was the first chair of the committee, a role she continues today. 

A survey of residents resulted in overwhelming support for seeking the designation.  The KWA Board of Directors’ approval moved the request forward.  The complex effort to gather all the required information for the application led the PAC to hire an arts consultant. 

Data were collected about our neighborhood and a survey of artists was taken.  The PAC created an advisory board of representatives consisting of folk in the local arts community. SAY Sí, a youth arts program that KWA helped to establish in 1994, created a video with highlights of the community. 

In late August of 2011, good news came from Jim Bob McMillan, Deputy Director of the Texas Commission on the Arts.  On September 8, 2011, the TCA Governing Board recommended King William to be a Texas CAD by a unanimous vote.  There were many compliments from the judges, capped by “King William is the perfect place for a cultural arts district in Texas; this is a unique neighborhood in one of the most unique cities in Texas; there is nothing else like it in Texas.”  

As driver of development of the Cultural Arts District, the Cultural Arts Committee has been busy for the last six years, in partnership with local artists, in the following efforts: 

  • Developed a first-class website to promote cultural events: kingwilliamculturalartsdistrict.com.  
  • Created four neighborhood walking tour brochures, designed by Roland Rodriguez, available at the KWA office and offered by professional tour guides. 
  • Commissioned two public art benches, one on the corner of King William Street and Cesar Chavez Blvd. designed by James Hendricks, and one at the end of Eagleland near the new bridge by Oscar Alvarado.  
  • Presented First Thursday art exhibits featuring Southtown artists and artist talks held in the KWA office.  This program continues today, with over 12 artists featured thus far.  
  • Commissioned design and installation of a sign promoting the KWCAD, designed by Roland Rodriguez and located at the corner of King William and S. St. Mary’s Streets. 
  • Created KWCAD stickers with the emblem of the Texas Commission on the Arts for members to place in store windows to designate their affiliation. 
  • Sponsors Concerts in the Park, annual music programs that are free and open to the public.  
  • Responsible for the installation of historic street signs in King William in 2011; the old street signs were used in a silent auction fundraiser. 
  • Sponsors free arts and culture lectures by professionals in the fields of archaeology, conservation, paper artistry and marketing of the arts. 
  • Designed way-finding signs funded by the Texas Legislature/TCA to indicate the path to the San Antonio Missions UNESCO sites (installation expected this fall).  
  • Current project: commission of an artist-designed bench at the intersection of S. Alamo, Pereida and Adams Streets.

The King William Cultural Arts District, supported by KWA Cultural Arts Committee, is of tremendous value to the people and the neighborhood of King William.  Our mission is to respect and promote our heritage, artists and citizens, while mindful of our place in the larger cultural context of San Antonio.  We are proud of the accomplishments over the last six years, and especially thrilled to be linked to the San Antonio Missions UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

We will continue to work to fulfill our mission.  The KWA newsletter will keep the community informed of further projects.  We welcome input and suggestions from our neighbors!  Be sure to check out our website (kingwilliamculturalartsdistrict.com), Instagram site (instagram.com/kwcad) and Facebook page!  

- Sherry Hess & Nora Peterson, KWA Cultural Arts Committee