As the crane gently lowers the final piece of the conical sculpture atop the other segments and the installers rush to adhere it, Luis closes his eyes. When the sculpture, Lighthouse Fountain by Jesus Morales, comprised of tons of pure red granite from Fredericksburg, is secured, Luis can look again, and he exhales in relief. As the Executive Director of the Rockport Center for the Arts, Luis Purón, is the engine behind the stunning new coastal contemporary galleries, sculpture garden, and conference space at 106 South Austin Street. Amid the charming storefronts and galleries of downtown Rockport and boasting bay front views, the new facility is a game changer for an already well-known and highly respected art center.
The voyage to this place in time involved a lot of hope, a hurricane, relocating a 90-ton building, 12.5 million dollars, 1.2 acres of land, and Luis’s incredible drive to deliver cutting edge innovation and artistry.
The Rockport Center for the Arts, (RCA) is a 14,000 square foot visual art and education complex, complete with stunning gallery space, classrooms, public areas, state-of-the-art lighting/tech/sound systems plus killer views of the glittering Gulf.
Due to the elegant design, wherever you wander, you still get views of the 16,000 square foot Patricia Bennett Moore Outdoor Sculpture Garden, complete with benches and idyllic landscaping that invite you to stop, sit, and soak in the enchanting art surrounding you. Kent Ullberg’s Merry Time Romance, a 300 pound, 8-foot-tall sculpture of two affectionate seahorses, is already at home in the courtyard space, welcoming you to the garden. Ultimately, there will be 10 permanent sculptures making their home here for everyone to wander amongst and enjoy.
The Richter Architects designed space occupies a place of pride along the main thoroughfare of Rockport’s Arts District, and though much newer than most buildings, it seems an organic evolution, perfectly at home amongst the waving palms, businesses, beachy boutiques, and art galleries from another era. The building’s exterior is a light-colored façade of horizontal Hardie board (over concrete and steel), and is reminiscent of shiplap, providing an appropriately coastal feel. Nestled among Gulf greenery, the building maintains a low profile at only two stories. There are rental spaces suitable for small receptions or large conventions, various spots to showcase local and regional artists, and a retail/gift shop on the campus, resources to benefit the entire town.
The ultimate impetus behind the new Art Center, of course, was the destruction of the old facility by Hurricane Harvey, but the new space is also the culmination of years of work, planning, creativity, and the vision of many people since 2014. The positive effects of an expanded artistic, immersive, educational, and cultural experience cannot be underestimated, especially in a small town with a huge share of artists, a growing population, and a sophisticated taste for world class programs and opportunities. The new edifice allows for expanded programs now including performing and culinary arts, presenting an opportunity for students, teachers, design enthusiasts, chefs, and burgeoning thespians to study, instruct, and create to their heart’s content.