This post is the next in our series, Hidden Gems, where we visit places hidden in plain view, in and around Dallas, that we have explored this summer and in the past. You can access that series of posts here.
For our weekend outing, we chose to do the Plano Art Walk. This self- guided tour allows visitors to experience the best of the historic downtown arts district in Plano. Plano has commissioned sculptures and mural projects, both of which have happened in the last several years. We thought this would be a great time to take in some of these efforts.
The self-guided tour map was very helpful in planning the walk. The tour can be done by walking, riding a bike, or driving. The tour starts from the entrance to the Arts district at US 75 and 15th street with the Plano sculpture, created by Joshua Weiner. He has a collection of seven pieces, including this piece, flanking either side of 15th street. Collectively called “Rhythmic Illuminations,” this series of six aluminum-based sculptures represent a guitarist, dancer, violinist, pianist, conductor, and a singer (not in that order) and are lit up at night.
Typically finding parking space in downtown Plano on a Saturday evening is a tough task. But we lucked out and pulled into a parking space right away. We then went to look at the first of the murals. According to the tour map information, “In January of 2017, the Plano Art Association and the Historic Downtown Plano Association partnered to launch the Downtown Mural Project. The project was made possible due to a grant from the Plano Heritage Commission.”
The mural on the west-facing wall of Georgia’s Farmers Market was painted by Will Heron, using elements from Plano’s past, including a cactus, a windmill, cotton, a water tower, and a train. I particularly liked this mural with its five different panels in a variety of colors and the symbolism.
We walked across the street to Haggard Park, one of the oldest parks in Plano, named for one of the founding families that assisted with the project. We saw some families enjoying the beautiful evening by the pond. We stopped to enjoy the “Through the Park” sculpture by David Hickman representing a metal father, mother, and child spinning with the wind.
Then we made our way to the Interurban Railway Museum, which is currently closed. There is an exhibit of the Museum, “Car 360”, a train car that once traveled the tracks through downtown, and now a permanent exhibition showcasing Plano’s history and an educational piece about electricity and the Texas Electric Railway. Long ago, while the children were still young, we have visited the Museum and explored the interior of Car 360, but we had to settle for seeing the car from the outside this time.
The rail car exhibit and its accompanying informational signage reflects the importance of the railways in the growth of Collin County and Plano in its younger days. The Houston and Texas Central Railroad allowed for the movement of goods and livestock. This was followed by the Texas Electric Railway, which played an essential role in transporting people between Plano and other North Texas cities, allowing mail, salepeople, and products to flow through the city. Although the Railways eventually ended after WW II, it served a vital role during the early years. The Mule sculpture by Tom Askman is a tribute to the iron horses or trains that passed through this area.
Our next stop was the second of the Downtown Mural Project, the large mural depicting the Plano of yesteryears, recreated from old photographs. The Interurban Rail, a horse-drawn carriage, original storefronts, and people are represented in a three-panel painting by Wes Hardin. Like the first mural, this one is indicative of the city’s origins.
Walking back to 15th street, we strolled to McCall Plaza, where a few people enjoyed a late dinner or hung out. A musician played his violin on stage, which is the place for live performances. The buildings around the Plaza still retain the feel of a quaint and historic downtown. We spent some time admiring the architecture of these buildings before walking to find the Alien Rock, painted in 2016 by a local artist. As mentioned in the tour map, this one needs close watching as it can be easily missed.
We then walked to the Echowave, the third of the Downtown Mural Project installations. A combination of visual and auditory pieces, this 3D project has four metal representations of sound waves, each corresponding to an online audio clip, each of which contains one part of Plano’s history.
We strolled around to 14th street before walking back to McCall Plaza. It was getting dark by now. The roads, while not crowded, were busy with diners at the many restaurants, and people were relaxing in the Plaza. There were a few more stops along the way, south of 15th street, as well as Cox Theater and Courtyard, that we did not have time to visit. But we have seen them on other trips to Plano in the past, so we didn’t feel the need to hasten the tour.
We enjoyed a lazy stroll along Plano’s historic arts district with help from Plano Art Walk. If it has been a while since you visited, this is an excellent time to go. Food, fun, music, history and art, all rolled into one!