Teen on mission to get youths into art scene

HARLINGEN — For 19-year-old Jared Castaneda, art and history are practically one and the same.

Castaneda, a Harlingen native and currently a student at Texas State Technical College, is bringing that attitude to the city’s downtown district in a bid to seamlessly meld art, architecture and the passage of time.

“Main Street Texas recommended the Harlingen downtown district be more inclusive when it comes to the participation of younger people,” said Edward Meza, downtown manager. “Jared came in and said ‘I’d like to volunteer as an intern.’

“He said he was interested in downtown and getting more youth involved,” Meza added. “I thought this was a great opportunity.”

Castaneda moves quickly, and has created the Harlingen Committee for the Arts and Innovation. Through this vehicle, he says, a vibrant vision of an ever-increasing artistic presence in the historic district is ready to blossom.

“What I want to do is just create more involvement and really find a way to reach the younger generation to make sure there is a next generation for the downtown area,” he said. “Because, I mean, we have all that we have right now because of former generations and the hard work they’ve put in, and we get to reap the benefits of that by having a downtown just to enjoy.”

Castaneda said his committee’s first initiative is to incorporate “live art” into the district’s next Art Night on June 29.

“We will be setting up special stand-up canvas-type things and during Art Night we’ll have different artists along A Street just doing whatever their medium is, and that will provide the community a way to see the arts in a more active process,” Castaneda said. “We also intend to better connect the different venues throughout the Art Night area and have an Art Block, so you can actually have an Art Walk.”

Castaneda has laid out plans both short-term and long-term for incorporating more art and artists into the downtown scene.

“Very long-term we hope to do a music and arts festival in the downtown area,” he said. “Probably just a one-day thing but dedicated and focused on various art forms and musicians, both regional and potentially from out-of-state.”

Other ideas include signage for each of the downtown’s current art galleries, making it easier for those attending Art Night to follow a route to each of the venues.

“It will be like some kind of indicators with owner-originated designs in specific locations so people who are attending Art Night can better get around,” Castaneda said.

Another part of the committee’s plan is to create “street teams” with specialized knowledge to share with Art Night participants on particular aspects of the downtown’s art community and locations.

“We’d like to have various representatives for various parts of the downtown area who can market the areas and represent the areas they’re assigned to,” he said. “I just want to unite all those different aspects of the downtown area and help them communicate with each other.”

Each year Main Street Texas recognizes historic districts for their work and innovation when it comes to preservation and marketing of these areas. Harlingen’s downtown has been recognized by Main Street Texas for 12 straight years.

Castaneda believes those honors will continue to flow in the downtown district.

“I think it could really be like the hub for the entire city,” he said.