EDINBURG – Seeking to organize the cultural arts component set out in the city's downtown masterplan, the City of Edinburg has chosen the person who will "bridge the gap" among the business community, the city and local artists.
Evana Vleck, who for the last six years has served as the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce's director of marketing, begins her job as the city's new Downtown Development/Arts Coordinator this week.
"I, along with the EDC and the support of the Dustin Michael Sekula Library, am going to be very busy coming up with different avenues related to cultural arts," Vleck said. "We want the downtown area of Edinburg to grow in different ways. We want to grow with the community.
As the city's first official position designated to the arts, the job will also focus on business development in the downtown area, Vleck said.
"We want the businesses to embrace this as well. We want the artists embracing our businesses. We want these people working together. We want them to support each other. We want to support them as a whole," she said. "Maybe a lot of these business owners haven't been approached. Maybe they want ideas and the support? That's what we are here for. We are here to be that bridge between the community, the businesses, the art world and the city. That's what this position is really about. It's a bridge."
Number one on her priority list as she begins the job will be to expand the monthly Jardin Del Arte event, which will take place next month as a precursor to the city's annual Night of Lights Parade on Dec. 3. The city will be sending out a call for local artists who want to grow with the city, she said.
"Jardin will be the priority. We are looking for artists. We are asking artists to submit their work," she said. "We want people with the knowledge, the experience, the background, education and passion. We want that artist to grow. We want them to feel accomplished. We want them to possibly open up an art gallery, to keep supporting us, and we'll support them."
Guiding principles outlined in the city master plan called for the creation of a "symbolic heart" of the city, the design of integrated streets, creating parking in the downtown, and building for authenticity, according to Broaddus & Associates, the consulting firm for the project.
It's all part of the downtown revitalization plan city leaders hope can be used to attract business to the downtown area, update the city's architectural standards, as well as add physical enhancements to the small strip located between the University of Texas-Pan American and the County Courthouse.
"We are very serious about promoting the arts. This is another step towards bringing and cultivating art in the city," said Letty Leija, director of the Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library, and member of the Edinburg Cultural Activities Board.
"Edinburg EDC, by having this new position, they are showing how serious they are about the arts," Leija said. "That's why we chose her (Vleck). It's because of her experience. She has experience planning big events, with the museums. She has experience talking with business people and artists. That is one of the biggest assets she brings to this position.
"She not only will be the city's arts coordinator, she will also be in charge of downtown development," Leija said. "We're hoping the arts district takes off, and within a year or two have businesses downtown that will include bookstores or cafes, or those that will promote the arts. When that happens, then we'll see the fruits of our labor."