The push for increased arts and culture is a boon for area tourism as it brings a new audience to the city of Sherman. Just by being a nominee for the cultural district designation, the city saw an increase in arts and culture tourism. Sherman Tourism and Main Street Manager Sarah McRae said in November this was a big deal especially on the tourism side.

One year after the designation, the city took a look at the numbers and how the Sherman Cultural District is affecting those who are planning trips to the city at a recent City Council meeting.

Former Sherman Mayor Cary Wacker estimated that the city sees a $79.72 million impact in direct travel spending from all forms of tourism. This did not have firm numbers specifically for cultural tourism, but his resulted in $1.54 million in direct sales tax receipts for the city and $15.33 million in wages and salary earned for employees in tourism and travel-related businesses.

McRae said the designation has already caught the attention of other cities, who have approached her about how they can support the local arts in their own communities. As an example, she said she was approached by an official with a neighboring city on the city’s extensive murals and public art.

“We are just happy to have that vibrancy and color in the community,” McRae said.

The district was officially formed in November and was recognized as one of 40 cities, including McKinney and Denison, that had the designation.

“Primarily, what we have focused on was community building and partnerships, and planning for the Sherman Focal Point project,” Cary Wacker said.

The initiative to have Sherman recognized as a cultural district started in early 2017 with an Austin College project aimed at looking at best practices for art advancement and management, Wacker said. One of the recommendations that came from the study was for the city to pursue cultural district status with the Texas Commission on the Arts.

The city’s efforts were rewarded in November when the commission formally recognized the city’s performing arts and artistic heritage in a ceremony at the municipal ballroom.

“This is such an exciting day for Sherman,” Mayor David Plyler said in November. “To be recognized by the state of Texas for our city’s long standing reputation as a hub really confirms what so many of us already know in our hearts: that Sherman largely remains true to its roots as the Athens of Texas.”

The city has started initiatives aimed at the arts community since the district was created. Among these initiatives was the creation of a Cultural Conversation meeting series that brought together members of the arts community for an open dialogue.

“These groups can come together to talk about their events with chances to collaborate and cross-promote events,” Wacker said.

Other initiatives are aimed at aspects of Sherman’s arts community that may have been undervalued previously. Wacker said the city has often been recognized for its performing arts, musicians and local theater but visual arts had sometimes been neglected.

In February, organizers created a new Art Dash event that focused on visual artists in downtown. The event features artworks from nearly 40 artists that were displayed in throughout downtown businesses. Each artist then submitted a small artwork and ticket holders for the dash were allowed to claim and take home one of the pieces.

“They blew a whistle and people dashed to the walk to pick one piece,” Wacker said. “So, there was a bit of competition involved.”

Looking toward the future, Wacker said the next big initiative will be a display of local photography that will be showcased during Sherman Arts Fest later this fall. This will be followed by a Sherman Focal Point festival next summer.

“The main focus — no pun intended — of the focal point project is to give citizens a voice in telling their Sherman story,” Wacker said.