Downtown Abilene is about to get more colorful!

September 16, 2019Doug Peters, President and CEO of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce

This past Friday, incoming Chairman Darrin Black and I had the pleasure of speaking to the Leadership Abilene Class of 2020 at their orientation. We spoke about the Chamber, its affiliates, the work that we do on behalf of our members, and ways that they too can help us meet our mission.

I shared with them the story that I have with many of you. The story of when I logged over 70,000 air miles searching for the next step in my career, the next place for my family to call home, and how Abilene stuck out for us.

The 10-minute commute, the #TeamAbilene atmosphere, the generosity of our community, and the one that separated Abilene from the other communities for me – the arts.

Abilene’s art scene is one that you all should be proud of, and one that the Chamber’s Cultural Affairs Council (ACAC) works hard to create. Their work with the Storybook Capital of America, Children’s Performing Arts Series, Young Audiences of Abilene and more help us to meet our mission.

Their work attracts visitors to our community, provides jobs, and the helps create the quality of place that many in the economic development world look for when deciding to relocate or expand their business.

Their work goes beyond programming. They’re creating a cultural district that is enhancing our center’s core and is essential to the work that we do. Just this summer, they completed two projects in our downtown with funds that were all privately raised by those who volunteer and work within the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council.

First, the 25 new limestone benches or the “Storybook Art Adventure Trail” is one that visitors can begin at the Adamson-Spalding Storybook Garden. In partnership with the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL), each bench features a quote from a book whose art has been exhibited at the NCCIL. The benches provide anyone visiting downtown Abilene a place where they can sit and take in the surroundings of progress.

Along with the benches came the new street signs. To further enhance the city’s reputation as the Storybook Capital of America, honorary street signs were added in June; “Santa Calls Lane” extends down Cedar from N. 1st to North 3rd streets. “Storybook Way” extends down Cypress Street from N. 1st to N. 6th Street.

And now another upcoming project that I’m incredibly excited for, the upcoming “Lights, Camera, Action” project designed to enhance Minter Park and Adamson-Spalding Storybook Garden. The matching grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA) will provide $112,000 to enhance the spaces with colorful theatrical tree lighting, digital projection equipment, a limestone screen suitable for movies or performance backdrop, and security cameras.

ACAC is partnering with the City of Abilene, which is in the process of renovating Minter Park. The goal is to debut the lighting for the Storybook Garden at the Dec. 6 Christmas in the Garden event, and work should be completed in Minter Park in time for the 2020 Children’s Art & Literacy Festival in June.

You can read more about the project here.

Folks, the substantial work that those in the arts are doing not only advances our city but attracts visitors and adds additional dollars to our local economies. These projects will help us stand out from the pack and make me proud to call Abilene home.

Next time you’re in our downtown, I hope you’ll see the progress that our community is engaging in, take a photo with a Storybook character, enjoy a cup of coffee on one of the new benches, and be proud that you are a part of #TeamAbilene.

Onward!
Doug

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