Only have a minute? Listen instead
When you look at the city of San Juan, in my conversations with other municipalities, they say, ‘Why San Juan?’ Why not San Juan?
SAN JUAN — During a special called meeting Wednesday evening, the San Juan City Commission approved the creation of the San Juan Cultural Arts District — an effort fronted by Gelman Stained Glass Museum’s former Executive Director Miriam Cepeda-Gelman.
Prior to its approval, Cepeda-Gelman addressed the commission and shared details about the arts district, which she said has been in development for over three years.
“The Downtown San Juan Cultural Arts District is a nonprofit organization that I began researching on funding opportunities to enhance the area,” Cepeda-Gelman said, who is the district’s founder and president. “Here in the city of San Juan, there’s the downtown revitalization plan, and this is one avenue for funding.”
There are currently 52 cultural districts designated by the Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA), including McAllen.
According to the TCA website, these cultural districts are designated areas that “harness the power of cultural resources to stimulate economic development and community vitality” in order to help generate businesses, attract tourism, encourage cultural development as well as serving as a source of civic pride.
“When people think of the city of San Juan, the first thing they think of is the Basilica (Of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle – National Shrine),” Cepeda-Gelman said. “The Basilica is the epicenter of religious tourism. So it just hand-in-hand follows what a true cultural arts district is.”
During the meeting, many commissioners questioned whether having a cultural district would affect taxpayers. Cepeda-Gelman said that a cultural arts district would not increase taxes, nor would it need to be placed on a ballot.
“I see the potential that the city of San Juan has, and I’ve seen the outside resources that are available for this area,”Cepeda-Gelman said. “When you look at the city of San Juan, in my conversations with other municipalities, they say, ‘Why San Juan?’ Why not San Juan?
“The basilica right there. That is the epicenter of religious tourism. It’s the number one cultural destination in the Rio Grande Valley.”
Following the commission’s approval, Mayor Mario Garza expressed excitement about the district, which he said will not only be beneficial when it comes to local festivities, but also help in beautifying the city.
“Our number one priority there is to bring in tourism and to see where we can tap in for some funding for some extra downtown revitalization — stuff like for instance, canopies, benches, anything trying to beautify our city,” Garza said. “It’s going to open up a lot of doors for us. There’s so much funding we can tap into, but we have to be registered as a cultural art district.”
State Rep. Armando “Mando” Martinez, D-Weslaco, who serves as vice chair of the Culture, Recreation & Tourism Committee, which oversees the Texas Commission on the Arts, shared his support for the creation of the San Juan Cultural Arts District.
“The creation of the Downtown San Juan Cultural Arts District is an excellent opportunity for the City of San Juan to showcase the different arts and cultures that makes them unique,” Martinez said in a statement. “It is important that we, as a community, celebrate our different cultures and share them with others.”
The district will hit the ground running with a concert scheduled for Friday, June 16 at the Basilica, which Cepeda-Gelman described as a soft launch. The event is titled “World Without End,” which will be conducted by Dr. Eric Posada.
The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are available at www.downtownsanjuan.org for $25.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct Cepeda-Gelman’s title.