Dancer from the annual Latino Cultural Festival in Downtown Hillsboro.

Officials say the district will promote the city’s cultural arts and spur more economic development.

The Hillsboro City Council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 17, was a night of the arts, as the city’s Cultural Arts Program Manager, Michele McCall-Wallace, observed.

At the meeting, city councilors proclaimed October as Hillsboro Art Month and Mayor Steve Callaway recognized Barbara Mason, a Hillsboro resident and abstract artist whose work the city is displaying in September and October.

Using recommendations from the Hillsboro Arts & Culture Council, the City Council also established a Cultural Arts District in Downtown Hillsboro.

Councilors unanimously adopted a resolution designating the downtown core, Shute Park and the M & M Marketplace as the initial boundaries of the district.

The city has looked to art as a means to drive economic revitalization, promote existing businesses and showcase the city’s cultural diversity for years. But community input during the formation of the Hillsboro Arts & Culture Council showed people didn’t think of Hillsboro as a destination to experience cultural arts.

While officials haven’t yet decided what the arts district will feature or how it will function, McCall-Wallace said it will allow the city and its art-oriented partners to advance economic and cultural goals.

At the direction of the City Council last summer, McCall-Wallace and Hillsboro economic development officials researched the benefits of arts districts locally and nationwide, and they held a community meeting to hear input from residents.

“It’s taking the current activity we’ve had and building on that to create new activity and generate more arts and culture activity in the area,” McCall-Wallace said. “But not just arts and culture. More restaurants, more businesses — just a more vibrant and thriving Downtown.”

The Arts & Culture Council’s research showed that other arts districts were walkable, had branding, used wayfinding signage, and featured farmers markets, seasonal events and entertainment.

“The (Arts & Culture Council) as well as, I believe, the City Council feel strongly that it also be a district that reflects the diversity of Hillsboro,” McCall-Wallace said.

McCall-Wallace hopes a geographic location that focuses on the arts will make people in the region more aware of Hillsboro’s cultural arts amenities and bring in tourism.

“Hillsboro’s Downtown currently operates as an informal and unstructured arts and entertainment district with a mix of forprofit and nonprofit attractions,” said Nancy Nye, Hillsboro Culture and Special Events Manager, at the City Council meeting. “But by naming it for what it is, all sorts of benefits will follow.”

Multiple residents, nonprofits, economic development organizations and businesses have shown interest in helping the Arts & Culture Council decide what the district will feature, according to McCall-Wallace.

Officials intend to expand the district to include other areas of the city.

The Arts & Culture Council recommended the city consider rezoning residential areas to allow artisan businesses and organizations in the future, according to its report. However, McCall-Wallace said the city is not considering any rezoning associated with the arts district at this time.

At the meeting, councilors expressed widespread approval of the arts district and the Arts & Culture Council’s efforts to involve residents in the planning process.

City Councilor Rick Van Beveren said he disagrees with anyone who doesn’t see the district as an economic endeavor.

“A lot of people don’t think of it that way, but it can really be the basis for a lot of our Downtown core,” Van Beveren said. “It adds a lot of value.”

Callaway said, “Art has such a meaningful presence all throughout our city. I cannot imagine it not being here. And because of that, I’m really really excited as we move forward with this.”

The city’s First Tuesday Art Walk will be on Tuesday, Oct. 1, from 5 to 8 p.m.

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