The arts have helped transform downtown Clifton, Texas, from dead to dynamic.

Clifton – a Texas Hill Country town about 30 miles northwest of Waco – has injected economic vitality into a once-sleepy core. In fact, some evenings it’s hard to find a parking space in downtown Clifton.

Since 2007 – when the town’s three main streets were pretty desolate – almost half of Clinton’s business startups, expansions, relocations and renovations have been downtown. Most of the downtown businesses are art galleries, restaurants and retail shops that cater to cultural arts tourists.

In 2009, local cultural arts tourism spending generated $2.4 million in economic activity, $1.1 million in earnings and about three dozen permanent jobs. Today, about 20 percent of all tourism and visitor spending in Bosque County is connected to the arts and culture, compared with the Texas average of 10 percent.

The Bosque Arts Center is a key component in Clifton’s economic renaissance. The Center houses a permanent photography exhibit, an art gallery and a performing arts theater. It also plays host to classes and events sponsored by the Art Council, Art Club, Photography Guild, Pottery Guild, Culinary Club and Tin Building Theatre. In 2009, the venue drew about 12,000 visitors – nearly four times the population of Clifton.

Since its establishment in 1981, the Bosque Arts Center has leveraged its original $33,000 endowment into roughly $3.7 million in private financial support and other contributions.

Aside from being home to the Arts Center, Clifton is home to several nationally known artists. Two early members of the Cowboy Artists of America, the late James Boren and the late Melvin Warren, settled in Clifton in the 1960s. Their presence eventually attracted big-name Western artists George Boutwell, Tony Eubanks, Bruce Green, Martin Grelle and George Hallmark to the Clifton area.

Other cultural amenities in Clifton include the annual Bosque Sculpture Expo, founded in 2009; the Bosque Arts Center’s annual auction, called the Big Event; the Bosque Museum, which displays memorabilia depicting the life and crafts of the area’s first Norwegian settlers; the annual Bosque Classic art show; and Heritage Park, which features the first public outdoor piece of art installed in Clifton.

In recognition of the town’s growing number of arts-related activities, events and organizations, the Clifton Arts Network, a nonprofit umbrella organization, was formed in 2009.

View Clifton’s case study. Or see the full “Art of Economic Development” economic report.

Clifton’s recipe for building a cultural arts economy comprises four ingredients:

  • Converting an empty, dilapidated building into the Bosque Arts Center
  • Attracting artists to live and work in the region
  • Integrating the arts into downtown revival
  • Promoting the area as a retirement haven by capitalizing on the area’s arts scene and quality of life

Among other things, Clifton’s stature as a cultural arts magnet depends on:

  • Artists living there and serving as ambassadors for the entire arts community.
  • The public sector investing in downtown improvements.
  • Local residents supporting and engaging with local arts organizations.

Special thanks to:

We would also like to thank:

  • George Boutwell, Artist
  • Coyle Cox, Artist
  • John Erickson, Clifton Economic Development Corporation
  • Clarence Fields, Goodall-Witcher Healthcare Foundation
  • Hugh Gaither, Artist
  • Cal Goerdal, Clifton Chamber of Commerce
  • Betty Graham, Clifton Arts Network
  • Karen Hughes, Bosque Arts Center
  • Mike Irvin, Artist
  • Doug Kieta, Bosque Arts Center
  • Pat Longino, Bosque Arts Center
  • Punky Pemberthy, Bosque Arts Center
  • Vic Roper, Artist
  • Steve Schmidt, Bosque Arts Center
  • Jeanni and Jim Talley, Central Texas Academy of Performing Arts
  • Mike Windsor, Artist
  • Cole Word, Bosque County Judge