The Arts of Winnsboro


Winnsboro finds itself in the middle of the arts scene in the Upper East Side of Texas, which is no surprise because a lot of people in town have worked hard to put it there.

“The arts are one of our primary economic development engines,” said Shane Sheppard, economic development director. “The arts differentiate us from a lot of other communities because they come to town for the music and the popular restaurants, and most visitors shop, too.”

Live music is the most common – but certainly not the only – draw, with frequent weekend music at the well known Crossroads Coffeehouse, which is now sponsored by the Winnsboro Center for the Arts, and with the Double C Steakhouse, Brewbakers Pub, and the Art & Espresso coffeehouse all downtown neighbors.

The annual North East Texas Music Festival is always a crowd favorite.

The multi-dimensional nonprofit art center and the Winnsboro Emporium help complete the arts scene, which also includes the fairly new, monthly 3rd Friday Arts Festival, which begins on Friday and spills over into daytime Saturday with a plethora of vendors and activities.

It all fits into quality of life, which is a strong element of economic development.

“We can’t compete financially with the incentives some larger cities can offer, but where we can compete is quality of life, which is central to downtown,” Shane said. “A lot of economic developers forget that element. It’s not always about the cash, it’s also about quality of life.”

Winnsboro is so convinced of the value of arts to the community that it has added Sandy Page as director of the arts district.

Winnsboro is one of the first seven cities in the state named as a Texas Cultural Arts District. Cultural arts districts are defined by the state well-recognized, labeled, mixed-use areas of a community in which a high concentration of cultural facilities serves as the anchor of attraction. These districts, the state says, boost revitalization by beautifying and animating cities, providing employment, attracting residents and tourists to the community, complementing adjacent businesses, enhancing property values, expanding tax bases, attracting well-educated employees, and contributing to creative, innovative environments.

And there is the city’s participation in the Art Region of Texas roundtable which also includes Commerce, Mineola, Mount Pleasant, Mount Vernon, Paris, Quitman, and Sulphur Springs. The program is in its infancy, but the towns are looking to partner with one another to find innovative ways to bring art into and share art to benefit each community and the whole region as part of overall economic growth.

Winnsboro is rightfully proud of its musical attractions, and offers one behind-the-scenes initiative that helps quite a bit. Music licensing organizations are now insisting that venues that host live music pay licensing fees that are supposed to benefit copyright owners of the music. It’s an invisible fee, like insurance, that the public seldom is even aware of. In Winnsboro, the city will pay, to help keep doors open, half of that licensing fee – up to $750 – to any venue that hosts at least a dozen performances a year.

The arts also help create pride of “ownership” in a city. One indicator of that is the annual “best-of” search in County Line Magazine. Residents and visitors drawn by the arts and restaurants voted Winnsboro tops in several categories including Best Coffee - Art & Espresso, Best Artist - Georgia Lange Moore, Best Restaurant - Cibo Vino, Best Steak - Double C Steakhouse, Best Annual Event - Autumn Trails, Best Bed & Breakfast - Thee Hubbell House and Hunter’s Moon Farmhouse, Best Improved Small Town – Winnsboro, and Best Play - The Altos and Scrooge.

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