One of the stops of the Plano Art Walk is in the Douglass Community, at 12th Street and I Avenue, where a 76-foot mural of vitreous glass tile lines the side of the DART track.
The Douglass Community is one among several historically African American neighborhoods in North Texas. Back in the 1920s, up until the 1950s, I Avenue was lined with restaurants and shops. There were candy shops, a barber, a beauty parlor, nightclubs and even a hotel, because that was the only place where Plano’s Black residents were allowed to live, work, and play.
In 2001, the residents and the Douglass Community Arts Advisory commissioned a mural. Five years later, in 2006, on Juneteenth, “Tracks of Our Past and Future” by Lynne Chinn and Shug Jones was dedicated. The mural is a tribute to the past, present, and future of the Douglass Community.
This mural is just one of the stops on the Plano Art Walk, a self-guided walking, riding, or driving tour of the various art installations, murals, and historical landmarks scattered around downtown Plano.
Launched this summer, The Plano Art Walk is a collaboration between the Plano Arts Coalition, Douglass Community, and Leadership Plano’s current class, Class 37. Leadership Plano is a program that empowers current and future community leaders. Every class of Leadership Plano chooses a project and the Plano Art Walk was this year’s choice.
It’s described as a multi-sensory experience with a scavenger hunt, activities for children and families, and tour questions and prompts to help make the tour more interactive. The tour was built with social distancing in mind.
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The tour begins with the Downtown Plano Portal Project/ “Rhythmic Illuminations,” a series of striking metal sculptures by Joshua Weiner. Each one represents a different form of art—a violinist, a dancer, a singer, a pianist, a conductor. Next, visitors ponder The Courtyard Theater, a proscenium-style theater that was originally built to be a gymnasium for the Plano Cox High School.
From there, visitors guide themselves into the shade of Haggard Park, where The Saigling House, now known as the ArtCentre of Plano, resides. It was built in 1906 and inside, the ArtCentre of Plano displays collections and exhibits by local artists. Until September 1, the exhibit is Beneath the Surface, a collaboration between Christine and Keith Miller that interprets and advocates for the underwater world of the coral reef.
There’s also the Alien Rock, which was painted by the artist during a downtown Plano art event. The city initially removed it but later put it back. The Vickery Park Mural, painted by Wes Hardin, took its inspiration from historical photos of early Plano life, in particular, the railroad. The DART train runs right in front of it, physically juxtaposing the past with the present.
In an introduction to the Plano Art Walk, Project manager Courtney Hitt says that Plano is not known for its art scene, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
“We are constantly being overshadowed by other cities and their art scenes,” she says and points out the art in Haggard Park, the murals that Downtown Plano commissioned, and the metal sculptures along 15th Street that act as the gateways to the downtown region.
The Plano Art Walk is a chance to explore it all, with probing questions and relevant facts.
As Hitt says, “Art is everywhere and it touches everything.”