Smithville is a small, rural community in Central Texas, population about 4,000. The city limits extend about two miles in diameter, making things possible here that would be difficult to attempt at a larger scale. Smithville’s Cultural District boundaries encompass roughly half of that land area.
The Mary Nichols’ Art Center is at the heart of a geography that includes many other cultural and artistic assets like the Veterans Memorial Park, Independence Park, the Heritage House, the LD Clark Writers’ Retreat, the James H. Long Railroad Park and Museum, the historic Central School and Red Brick building, Playhouse Smithville, and numerous galleries, artist studios and arts and crafts workspaces and shops.
The City of Smithville, the LPAA, the Smithville Heritage Society, the Smithville Public Library, and numerous other organizations and individuals continue to work diligently to provide our citizens and visitors with many rich cultural and artistic experiences including the Texas Photo Festival, the American Library Association/National Endowment for the Humanities’ Bridging Cultures program and Loleta Fyan Grant Award, the StoryCorps oral history project, art in our parks, and other projects, events, and programs.
How It Started
In 2012, the City of Smithville and the Lost Pines Artisans’ Alliance began working together to apply for a Cultural District Designation from the Texas Commission on the Arts. Smithville’s Cultural District was officially designated on September 5, 2013. A tremendous honor, this reflects the hard working ethics and strong collaboration between the artists and performers who are members of the Lost Pines Artisans Alliance (LPAA), the volunteer historians in the Smithville Heritage Society, several departments in the City of Smithville municipal government, and numerous community members and organizations.
The Cultural District Steering Committee includes members of the LPAA, city officials, historians, community leaders, and building owners who are working together to bring new programs to light and enhance currently existing projects to their greatest capacity.
The Smithville Cultural District was formally named after Richard D. Latham, one of this town’s most prolific patrons of the arts. Latham championed public arts projects like the Train Sculpture at Riverbend Park, the “Art on a Stick” program, outdoor murals, and many other endeavors. A long-time volunteer and past president of LPAA, Richard was the Chamber’s Citizen of the Year in 2012. Richard coined the phrase “It’s Possible in Smithville.” He has spent a lifetime volunteering with the Chamber of Commerce, the Boys and Girls Club, and many others. The City is grateful for his service; Smithville has benefited terrifically from his involvement.
The Richard D. Latham Cultural District Partners use Arts, History, and Culture for Economic Development purposes to enhance the quality of life for residents and visitors. We do this through programming designed to highlight the Cultural District.
The goals are to:
- Utilize the Arts, Culture, and History of the community to encourage citizen involvement in cultural activities;
- Retain and attract artists and arts entrepreneurs to locate their workspaces and sell their artwork in Smithville, while establishing policies and practices that assist working artists;
- Encourage the eclectic atmosphere that attracts people to our art galleries, live performance venues, and other cultural and historic amenities that make Smithville a unique place to live, work, and visit;
- In partnership with Smithville Independent School District (SISD), extend educational opportunities to explore the arts and learn local history to all our residents through creative programming developed by LPAA, Smithville Heritage Society and other local organizations; and
- Increase public awareness of the culture, history, arts and artists to help make Smithville a renowned Cultural Destination for visitors and a wonderful place to live for residents. The City of Smithville believes that promoting the Cultural District as part of an economic development strategy will support our goal of improving the quality of life for our citizens.