Rockport Center for the Arts’ New $12.5 Million Campus is Nearly Completed

by Jessica Fuentes September 29, 2022

Rockport Center for the Arts (RCA) has nearly completed its $12.5 million campus, and has announced a new hire to manage its new conference center.

Rockport Center for the arts after hurricane Harvey in 2017

The back of the Rockport Center for the Arts’ previous building, approximately two months after Hurricane Harvey

In 2017, the original RCA building was damaged beyond repair after Hurricane Harvey, a category four hurricane, made landfall in Rockport. As a result of the storm, the city remained without electricity, cell service, water, or sewage for weeks. The RCA’s building was declared a total loss in October 2017, and was demolished in March 2018. Prior to the hurricane, RCA was working on a plan to move to a larger facility in the city’s downtown — in 2016, the organization purchased the property and began conversations with consultants.

An aerial photograph of construction at the Rockport Center for the Arts.

The final phase of construction continues on the new $12.5M Rockport Center for the Arts, located in downtown Rockport, Texas, on S. Austin Street at E. North Street. Scheduled to open in October, the 1.2-acre campus includes a 14,000-square-foot visual art and education complex (left); The ROCC, an 8,000-square-foot conference center (right); with a 16,000-square-foot sculpture garden located between the two buildings. (Photo/Ty Husker; August 19, 2022)

In February 2021, work began on the new 1.2 acre site, which includes a 14,000-square-foot gallery and education space, an 8,000-square-foot conference center, and a 16,000-square-foot outdoor sculpture garden. The Rockport Conference Center (ROCC) will include a ballroom, which can be reconfigured as four small breakout rooms; a foyer; and a catering and culinary arts education kitchen. The sculpture garden will display ten works by regional, national, and international artists. 

In a press release announcing the facility, executive director for RCA, Luis Purón said: “Our membership and our community are eagerly anticipating the opening of the new Rockport Center for the Arts, which is something we have been planning for since 2014… Substantial completion of construction should be done in early October and then it’s on to the finishing touches, fixtures and furnishings to arrive prior to the Certificate of Occupancy from our partner in the project, the City of Rockport.”

He continued, “Our new, modern facilities will allow us to expand the breadth of our programs, primarily the performing arts and the culinary arts. These facilities will also serve to attract business tourism to Rockport, during the mid-week timeframe, something that has been lacking in Rockport’s vast array of tourism offerings.”

Veerle and Kent Ullberg stand in front of "Merry Time Romance" by Mr. Ullberg. The 8-foot tall sculpture features a pair of seahorses.

Veerle and Kent Ullberg stand in front of  Mr. Ullberg’s sculpture “Merry Time Romance.” Photo by Ty Husak.

Earlier this month, RCA installed a recently acquired sculpture by Kent Ullberg, who is recognized as one of the world’s foremost wildlife sculptors. A Swedish native, Mr. Ullberg is currently based in Padre Island. He drew inspiration for this work, Merry Time Romance, from the lined seahorse, which can be found in the Gulf of Mexico. At about 8 feet tall and nearly 300 pounds, the sculpture features a pair of seahorses.

A headshot of Paulette Kluge. She wears a vibrant red collared shirt and is set against a deep purple background.

Paulette Kluge. Image courtesy Rockport Center for the Arts.

As RCA looks ahead to opening its new facility, the organization has also announced the appointment of Paulette Kluge as manager of the new conference center. Ms. Kluge replaces recent hire Carla Ligon who joined RCA in February and left in July. 

Ms. Kluge has over 40 years experience working as a hospitality executive. Her past roles include CEO of the Corpus Christi Convention and Visitors Bureau, Director of Sales and Marketing for Omni Hotels, and Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Regent Hotels International.

In a press release announcing the appointment, Mr. Purón remarked, “Paulette is a creative, enthusiastic and relationship-driven professional. We are fortunate to have lured her out of retirement to help The ROCC at the Rockport Center for the Arts open brilliantly and to deliver near perfectly executed meetings and events for our clients.”

Ms. Kluge added, “Being on the campus of the Rockport Center for the Arts is so fantastic and offers guests so many exciting options. The rooms are fabulous. The acoustics are amazing. The audio-visual capabilities are the best. I’m so looking forward to introducing this wonderful space to our many potential customers.”

A rendering of the new Rockport Center for the Arts complex in Rockport, Texas

A rendering for the Rockport Center for the Arts’ new campus

In 2019, RCA received a $5 million grant from the United States Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration (EDA) to support the new facility. An additional $7.5 million has been raised through the organization’s capital campaign. The initiative was launched publicly in 2021, but had begun as a silent major gift campaign following Hurricane Harvey. Donors include foundations and large organizations like the Still Water Foundation, The Brown Foundation, The Meadows Foundation, and H-E-B.


You may also like


Ben Koush September 29, 2022 - 09:50

As an architect reading this article, it was disappointing that the author chose not to include the name of the architects who designed the new building.

Kari Van Winkle October 3, 2022 - 21:55

Downtown Rockport has a small footprint and this building, for all the great things they say it will bring, does not blend well with the current feel of our downtown. A small quaint long time Rockport building was moved to put this huge monstrosity of a building that looks very out of place in its current location.

It has been the small town appeal that has made Rockport the location where people, for generations, have wanted to come with their family to vacation and enjoy our slower pace of life.

This building looks like it belongs in Port Aransas or Orlando, not Rockport. We don’t have the space to be either of those cities. Our downtown and it’s buildings have withstood hurricane Harvey and several before it. This is what makes us “ coastal“.

I wish this complex had been put somewhere behind our downtown. Surely it could have brought the same number of people to Rockport being one block away.

Joyce McCoy October 8, 2022 - 14:52

I agree with Kari that it’s far too big for downtown and no parking.

Anita Diebel October 12, 2022 - 19:34

I have had a business in Downtown Rockport since 1997 (with the exception of a year and a half after Harvey) and welcome this new , exciting addition to our downtown. It is big … by necessity , it is different, yes! It is state of the art and built to the standards put in place after hurricane Harvey.
I so appreciate that the choice was made to have this complex placed where it is It will help the area which has struggled of late. Give it a chance. Even embrace it. Change is not easy for some but change is inevitable Let it weather a bit and it will seem like it has always been there. By the way. The sculpture garden alone is enough to make me cheer for it

Judi Hines October 12, 2022 - 20:54

Rockport’s quaintness will not change because of the new Art Center. Rockport is quaint because of the people. The Art Center will only enhance opportunities for all of us to engage with one another in the best of ways. We are known for our Art not shopping. The Art Center will bring wonderful new visitors who will shop also and everyone will benefit. I am so excited for it to open. Thank you Luis and the board and the architects and the construction persons who have made this happen.

Gregory Brou May 25, 2023 - 13:21

I visited today with the misguided impression that this was a gallery that would have featured Rockport culture, history and famous artists. What I found was new age art that did not hold my attention. The only relation to Rockport was the HEB sponsorship of a room. I tried to start a conversation with the receptionist regards my impressions and was ready to loan a set of 1965 era Cowen prints, Victoria Bank issue, when this baldheaded dude stepped in front of me and blocked my conversation with his trinket sales display missives. Rockport tax payers should not be funding this elitist organization


Leave a Comment

Funding generously provided by: