South Carolina’s state arts agency has officially recognized Rock Hill’s downtown area as a “cultural district.” The city is the first in the Palmetto State to earn the designation from the S.C. Arts Commission.
The Arts Council of York County, a group managing several sites in downtown Rock Hill, began the process of applying for the state designation several months ago. Last month, the Rock Hill City Council blessed the plan, with council members saying the new classification for downtown should boost economic development opportunities and bring more visitors to Main Street and surrounding areas.
South Carolina lawmakers established the designation in late 2014 as a way for cities across the state to plug their arts and entertainment districts to promote tourism and local resident involvement. The program is similar to others found in states such as Massachusetts, Kentucky, Texas and Colorado.
The Arts Council of York County will lead the effort in Rock Hill to brand, market and promote downtown as a hub for creative activity.
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The district’s downtown boundaries are Elizabeth Lane to Dave Lyle Boulevard, running along Main, White and Black streets. Potential benefits of the new district classification include attracting more businesses to downtown and increasing the city’s chances when applying for grant money to support local art and cultural activities, Arts Council Executive Director Debra Heintz has said.
The S.C. Arts Commission, headquartered in Columbia, plans to help Rock Hill develop branding and marketing strategies for its new cultural district. The agency was created by the General Assembly in 1967 with a mission of increasing public participation in the arts and providing some funding help for arts education, community arts development and individual artist support.
Local representative to the Arts Commission, Sarah Lynn Hayes, of Rock Hill, said in a statement from the agency last week, “Naturally I am thrilled that Rock Hill is the first community to embrace this concept and that other communities have begun the work to achieve this designation.”
Anna Douglas • 803-329-4068