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The New Rockport Center For The Arts Is Almost Here

A fabulous new Art Center is opening soon in Rockport. This complex is the culmination of years of work and planning, a capital campaign, a $5,000,000 economic development grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, plus $3,700,000 from foundation grants and private donations.

This spectacular vision is coming to life under the leadership of Executive Director, Luis Purón, and his marvelous and resilient staff. We spoke with Luis to understand the evolution and extent of the new complex and what it means not just to Rockport, but to artists in Texas, in America, abroad, and to art lovers and students everywhere.

This state-of-the-art 22,000 square foot building, which includes an 8,000 square foot Conference Center and a 16,000 square foot sculpture garden, was designed by David Richter of Richter Architects and is expected to be structurally complete by August of this year!

The stunning public space includes

• Art Exhibits
• Galleries
• Classrooms
• Ballroom
• Culinary Center with catering and teaching kitchen
• Acoustic and visually advantaged performing arts space

With this new space, the center can also recognize and engage in celebrating the humanities with programs in literature and media arts.

But, what’s most important to Luis is that the whole community is a part of it, feeling included, and becoming an active element of the greater arts community. Rockport Center for the Arts is a membership-driven organization with donors at many levels.

Membership affords invitations to openings, special exhibits, participation in special programs/workshops, and advance notice of events, but everyone can enjoy the magnificent shows and displays all year long, regardless. In addition, there are classes in every medium of fine arts, as well as culinary, performing, and other media arts.

The Art Center has always featured local, regional, and American artists, plus international super stars of the art world like Sweden’s Kent Ullberg, one of the world’s foremost wildlife sculptors. Ullberg is busy casting a 300 pound, 8-foot sculpture of two seahorses entitled Merry Time Romance that will be displayed in the new sculpture garden. The Center also has two other Ullberg acquisitions, Preening Heron and Rights of Spring.

The work of the late Jesus Moroles, an abstract granite sculptor from Rockport, will also be on display in the new Sculpture Garden.

Luis believes that the community and The Center are a family united by art and that there will be something for everyone at the new facilities. Whether you hold an event there, take a cooking class, study glass-making, watercolor painting, or take ceramics, the Art Center is a place where everyone can learn, create, volunteer, and contribute to the Rockport community together.

We also spoke to Janet Coy, a resident at The Reserve at St. Charles Bay and a volunteer docent at the Arts Center (currently located in the Baker Law Building). Janet volunteers twice a week at the Center because she adores art. Janet leads visitors through exhibits and galleries at the temporary Center, guides student tours, answers questions, and gets to appreciate the cultural and artistic beauty around her. Janet says her favorite part of being a docent is just getting to meet all the new people, be they visiting artists, tourists or local couples checking out the art scene.

Luis tells us that the new center can be the epicenter of everyone’s social life as a place of learning, a date destination, a private event venue, an imaginative public garden, an inspirational art garden, or a spot to just enjoy the coastal environment and artistry of nature. With 27 unique annual exhibits, which change 9 times throughout the year, there is some form of artistic expression to appeal to everyone.

The flexibility and endurance of Luis and the Arts Center’s staff cannot be understated. Due to the damages from superstorm Harvey in 2017, the Arts Center managed to relocate an expected exhibition of “Birds and Art” from Wisconsin to The Art Museum of South Texas in Corpus Christi all within a few days. Fittingly, from January to March 2023, the new Center plans to present a new edition of Birds and Art again, a post-Harvey accomplishment rife with meaning. Within 99 days of Harvey, Luis and his staff recreated a temporary Art Center with a classroom, a gallery, and two office spaces in 2,000 square feet of space. Without missing a beat, they began the effort to execute a plan to bring their ideal future Arts Center to fruition, which was anticipated to take between 5 to 10 years to accomplish.

In less than 5 years, they have managed to breathe life into their idyllic Art Center vision. Keep an ear out for a Grand Opening announcement in the near future and mark it on your calendar as a not-to-be-missed event.

The Art Center works with community partners to the benefit of many local organizations including the Meals on Wheels program and the Rockport Rotary Club, through fundraising events like the Clay Expo and the Film Festival. By sharing the proceeds, they can enrich the entire community and ensure the continuation of vital programs and new and exciting art presentations, instructors, and opportunities for everyone to benefit from the Art Center program.

Rockport has been singled out many times as one of the best small coastal art communities in the country and is home to over 400 working local artists. Its new world class Art Center facility can only enhance and reinforce its artistic reputation.

From juried shows, to expos, to artist-in-residence programs, and summer camps, the Art Center represents the union of sophistication, artisanship, and intelligence. But the fierce determination of the townspeople invigorated by the challenge of Harvey’s destruction, their refusal to buckle to nature’s punishment, is what is most compelling about this story. Our thanks to Luis, his staff, and the Board of Directors for their visionary dedication, and love for their community that inspires us, giving new life to the concept of Rockport Strong.

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