The move toward making San Antonio a cultural mecca is gaining momentum

May 2, 2017 - 4:00pm

The Witte Museum’s expansion, Luminaria’s 10th anniversary this fall, the redevelopment of the Centro de Artes gallery, the transformation of San Pedro Creek, which will include public art installations—San Antonio’s arts community is energized right now. “There are so many great things happening in arts and culture that are transforming our community,” says Debbie Racca-Sittre, executive director at the city’s Department of Arts & Culture. Less than two years after the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts opened—looked at by many as a turning point for the city’s arts reputation—it was ranked No. 1 worldwide for ticket sales in theaters with 2,000 seats or less (and 16th nationally overall). None of that, however, means San Antonio has met SA2020’s goal of leading the world as a creative community, but industry leaders say the city is on its way because of new programs and increased engagement. Along with typical visitors and audience members, venues are increasingly working to reach nontraditional audiences through programs that offer new reasons to visit (see free movies on the Tobin Center’s plaza and cocktail nights at the Witte) and it appears to be working. Racca-Sittre says from 2012 to 2014 (the most recent data available) San Antonio’s creative industry grew by over 6 percent and its economic impact—now $4.3 billion—increased by nearly 12 percent. At the Tobin Center, which does not receive government funding, president and CEO Michael Fresher says the community has supported the center by attending events—it hosts an average of two per day. Local foundations and endowments also have made the arts a priority, he says.

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