Henry Ray Clark's pen and ink on paper at Art Matters, Wynne House, Huntsville TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)As part of US National Travel and Tourism Week (May 8 – 16, 2010) towns and cities across the United States are planning a variety of festivities to recognize and celebrate the importance of visitors and travel.

In Texas alone in 2008, travel spending directly supported over 500,000 jobs and people traveling in the state spent an estimated $60.6 billion.

I’m checking out the scene in Huntsville, Texas, where the newly-designated downtown Huntsville Cultural District is helping the town’s tourism and downtown development efforts.

The Cafe Texan neon sign at sunset, downtown Huntsville TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Helping to kick off the festivities is a new folk art exhibit….Art Matters: Works by Self-Taught Artists….at the Wynne Home Arts Center.

The town decided to use Travel and Tourism Week to draw attention to all of the interesting cultural and arts activities in the area, and the Wynne House folk art event was the jump-start.

I saw lots of wonderfully colorful and imaginative pieces and spoke with several artists at the opening (will post more here later and some pics are going up on Flickr, TwitPic and Facebook as well) but here are three tourism-related thoughts from a few conversations I’ve had today:

  • Sometimes it is hard for local people to appreciate their own town.  I’m not seeing this in Huntsville, but at the exhibit opening we discussed this problem. The best wake-up call is visitors who ooh and aah over the things you take for granted.
  • Revitalizing a tired downtown is a team effort between “the arty types,” the city government, the Chamber of Commerce, the CVB and all of the people who own businesses in the district.  Everyone has to be on board, and for the long haul, because it can take years to get any traction.
  • It is often one or two “crazies” who see the possibilities better than anyone else, and bravely move into the run-down sections of town and open little galleries, restaurants, etc.  For gosh sakes, support them! Support The Crazies!

(Disclosure: my Huntsville trip has been paid for in part by the Texas Commission on the Arts)