At a time when the economy does not bode well for the arts, the coastal community of Rockport, Texas seems to be offering shelter from stormy economic times. This small, but growing area, located just 40 minutes north of Corpus Christi, was recently listed in John Villani’s book “The 100 Best Small Art Towns In America”. According to the Texas Commission on the Arts, Rockport has the highest number per capita of artists compared to any other Texas city, with a colony of 100 professional fine artists living and working in the area.
As the hub of the arts community, the Rockport Center For The Arts has established a focus and direction that has help put Rockport on the map as a welcome beacon for painters, potters, poets, and art lovers.
Professional and polished without being pretentious, The Rockport Center For The Arts is a gem of a place, providing a synergy between staff and visitors that’s palpable. You can feel the energy of color surround you when you enter the brightly lit entrance leading to the exhibit areas. Coastal scenes and wildlife are depicted in much of the artwork shown here, since boats, and birds sell very well in this area.
Works by regional and national artists are on display, including well-known watercolorists such as Pat Deadman, Michael Atkinson, and others. There’s a member’s gallery, that offers the work of local artists, and juried shows such as the recent “Vitritied Clay International” show that featured works by noted ceramics artists. The center also acts as the host for performing arts events, a writer’s goup, weaver’s guild, and international cooking group.
Incorporated in 1967, The Rockport Center For The Arts was organized in the beginning without any real notion that it would turn out to be so popular.
“The art center is not made up of smaller splinter groups” explains Mary Lucille Jackson, the art center’s Executive Director. “Instead, it is one big organization that does it all. “We can go from brainstorming to action in a short period of time. This gives us a lot of creative freedom and lets us serve our member artists well. We like to stretch their limits by bringing in other artists from around the world to share their techniques and visions with them.”
According to Ms. Jackson, the art center’s long-range goal is to improve and expand its offerings, eventually becoming an ongoing venue for the performing arts, as well as providing exhibits and art education for adults and children. Classes range from beginning watercolor and acrylic workshops, to oil painting, ceramics, basketry, and weaving. Included in this mix are programs for youngsters and classes for winter snowbirds who flock here in great numbers in January and February.
“The major industry in this area is tourism,” says Ms. Jackson. “And we’re a major contributor to that. Part of our goal is to attract people to the destination through the arts.”
More fine art can be seen in Rockport’s downtown gallery community, crowded together in and around the main drag of Austin Street. At Estelle Stair Gallery, the wooden floors and tall ceilings add a touch of class to what has become a well-known showcase for south Texas coastal artists. Featured artists change regularly here, and there are always new paintings, sculpture, and pottery on display and there’s an excellent espresso coffee bar here to boot. Just footsteps away is the St. Charles Art Gallery, where work by contemporary local, national and international artists is showcased. Several other galleries are open to visit in and around the Rockport area and you can see what’s available by checking out the area Rockport Guide, available online at www.rockportguide.com.
WHO TO CONTACT
For more information
Rockport Center For The Arts, 902 Navigation Circle, Rockport Texas, 78382, 361-729-5519. www.rockportartcenter.org. Or contact: The Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce at 800-242-0071; www.rockport-fulton.org.
WHERE TO STAY
There are many listings for places to stay through the Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce website at www.fockport-fulton.org. Below are a couple of best bets for artists, families and older adults.
Crane House Nature Retreat
This privately owned nature preserve is a one of a kind find. The bed and breakfast borders the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and a perfect place for artists, writers, birders, and photographers to relax and enjoy the natural setting. The upscale bungalow offers two bedrooms and a large screened in porch from which to view the wildlife. See the website for more information.
Just across the street from Aransas Bay, the pet-friendly hotel caters to winter Texans and families coming for summer and winter getaways. It features motel rooms along with one and two-bedroom suites with kitchens that are very nice. Daily seasonal activities free coffee all day long, plus continental breakfast is included in the stay. Check the website for more information.