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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.