After visiting the Rockport Film Festival in mid-November, I was struck by the enthusiasm and energy that the Rockport arts community maintains in spite of circumstances. Between Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and the ongoing pandemic, it’s easy to imagine the lightly populated Rockport-Fulton area to lose its identity. Without tourism (and tourism’s dollars), how is a sleepy seaside vacation spot supposed to stay bright-eyed?
The answer is that Rockport doesn’t simply pander to vacationers for its identity. Its year-round arts community has dug its heels in, and is determined to evolve its arts infrastructure. There’s a solid plan to preserve the original site of the Rockport Center for the Arts (destroyed by Harvey; RCA now operates out of temporary digs), as well as build new facilities for exhibitions and performing arts. The Center plans programming year round, to support its enthusiastic Rockport communities of plein-air painters, silversmiths, and filmmakers. Local artists are given ample opportunity to develop and show their work, which means more interest from the outside — and the cycle continues Rockport’s growth.
After Rockport I returned home, to Dallas, which is no stranger to growth. Dallas: living with traffic, street noise, and the general unease of getting too close to a stranger at the grocery store. It’s is a far cry from a few days soaking in the tranquil autumn sun and the wind-swept live oaks of the Gulf Coast. But DFW has its upsides. The galleries and museums continue to put on exhibitions impressive in number and variety, even if they have to be viewed through a screen. It may be a matter of preference — the shape and size of the art community you prefer — but we really do have a beautiful range across this big state. Disasters will continue to route the path of history, and Texas will continue to keep up.
As you enjoy your holiday, here are some observations from our calendar’s perspective:
December is here, and with it comes the holiday gift list. Galleries, museums, and non-profit spaces compile their inventories for holiday fare, and sometimes present original artworks that are in stock. Some galleries, like Erin Cluley Gallery in Dallas, take an in-house, art-bazaar approach, while Inman Gallery in Houston offers a digital catalogue of works to peruse. This is a perfect time of year to get into collecting art — much of the work on offer for holiday shopping is kept at a more accessible price point. Small works of all kinds are available, if floor-to-ceiling statement paintings are too big of a leap to take on your first acquisition.
Looking back a few weeks to November: normally a rockstar month for fall-season exhibitions. The biggest event of the season by far was the opening of the MFAH’s new Kinder building, in a long-awaited expansion. The extra exhibition space reinforces Houston’s already stable position as a “world-class” museum city, and signals generations’ worth of art viewing to come. A welcome addition to 2020 for sure.
Online programming continues to evolve as the Covid surge proves that the safety of in-person programming is indeed seasonal. Some have offered both approaches, like NADA Miami (December 1-5), which took place online, and in the physical viewing rooms of participating galleries (such as 12.26 in Dallas). This deconstructed approach alleviates travel and operation costs for the exhibitors, and spices up local exhibitions. The approach is notably less aristocratic than the usual art fair proceedings, which is an upshot, because the cost of entry for emerging spaces is otherwise pretty high. Art fairs are a great way to check in with rising artists and galleries, and NADA’s initiative may lead to locals realizing that the talent is often right in our own back yards.
Martha Hughes invites viewers to look through the windows of her Marfa studio for an exhibition of her Table series, which is also available to view online. This is the hybrid approach of many virtual/walk-by studio visits (and exhibition walkthroughs published here on Glasstire), and there been a rise of store-front window shows during the pandemic, as seen at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Blind Alley in Fort Worth, and Hiram Butler in Houston.
In a year of exhausting firsts, some things have remained the same. GrayDUCK Gallery in Austin hosted its annual CRIT GROUP exhibition, featuring the work of eight artists working over a period of months in Contemporary Austin’s annual incubation program. The gallery has hosted the event for the last few years, and represents a holistic relationship between institutional and commercial sectors.
Traveling art collections, from one regional institution to another, are also a steady occurrence this season. In October, the Art Museum of Southeast Texas in Beaumont opened an exhibition featuring works from the collection of the Tyler Museum of Art; currently the Houston Museum of African American Culture (HMAAC) is showing works from The Paul R. Jones Collection of American Art at the University of Alabama. Both shows close early 2021.