Blink and you’d miss Fayetteville, Texas, save for its charm. The small town, tucked away off Highway 71 between La Grange and Columbus, has a population of 246, but on January 7 over 300 people packed into the local Red and White Gallery to celebrate its 10th anniversary.
A sustainable decade is impressive for any business, especially an art gallery in rural Texas, but the building that houses the Red and White Gallery has a much older history. Said to be the oldest commercial building in Fayette County, it was reportedly built around 1835. Before Joan and Jerry Herring opened the gallery in 2013, the Red and White building operated as a grocery store, an opera house, a mortuary, a Masonic Hall, and a furniture store, to name just a few of its chapters. The Herrings’ goal was to preserve its rustic exterior while updating the interior to function as an inn with four private rooms on its second story. The gallery space occupying the first floor came as a secondary idea to fulfill their passion.
“When the Red and White building came up for sale, I called Jerry and said ‘you better get in here because we’re going to buy this building,’” Joan recalled. “We thought of making the top floor into rooms, and then Jerry had the great idea to open a gallery on the first floor that the rooms upstairs would pay for. Well, it turned out the other way around — we’ve had a very successful gallery downstairs.”
Before moving to Fayetteville, Joan and Jerry lived in Houston, where Joan ran her own framing company and Jerry started a graphic design studio (Herring, which his son still runs today). The two met by happenstance as neighbors, and their relationship started there. Together they lived in a studio home that they built, with pop-up galleries inside it, until a shopping center was developed around them, which ushered them out of the city and into the country. The Herrings have lived on their small farm outside Fayetteville for 15 years.
Red and White Gallery has displayed over 100 artists in ten years, focusing mainly on regional Texas artists. The 10 Year Exhibit displays 19 of those artists to demonstrate the roster’s diversity in medium, style, and subject, and the line-up is impressive. The show’s catalog is organized according to the gallery’s decade-old archive, beginning with Rockport-native Jesús Moroles, whose solo show was the gallery’s premiere exhibition. Acclaimed for his large-scale public granite sculptures, such as the Houston Police Officers Memorial, Moroles hung some of his work from the ceiling for that first show in 2013 instead of testing the building’s 178-year-old original hardwood floors. In The 10 Year Exhibition, Moroles’ Granite Weaving is displayed on a pedestal.
William Anzalone, a former professor at the University of Houston and notable landscape painter, is also featured in the celebratory exhibition. Anzalone was represented by the reputable Meredith Long & Company in Houston for 60 years and now exclusively shows at Red and White Gallery. The four paintings displayed depict Anzalone’s signature ability to capture the vivid seasonality of the Texas landscape. According to the Herrings, Anzalone (87 years-old) paints for 8 hours every day from his home studio in Round Top.
Renowned illustrator Jack Unruh is featured as well. After his death in 2016, a retrospective of Unruh’s work was exhibited at Red and White Gallery in 2017. The 10 Year Exhibition includes a selection of four drawings from the 105 that Unruh created for The Texanist, David Courtney’s famed Texas Monthly column, as well as the book The Texanist: Fine Advice on Living in Texas, co-authored by Unruh and Courtney. Photographer Laura Wilson also contributes to the ensemble. As a budding photographer, Wilson was Richard Avedon’s assistant and spent six years traveling the country with him to photograph portraits for In the American West, a book and exhibition commissioned by the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth. Wilson has since led a successful career as a photographer publishing six photography books, and she recently exhibited The Writers: Portraits by Laura Wilson at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Austin. She also happens to be called mother by famed Texas actors Andrew, Owen, and Luke Wilson.
“In the early days [of Red and White Gallery], a lot of these artists were people that I or Joan had met through our careers in Houston. I started my publishing business, Herring Press, inside my graphic design studio and that’s how I met some of the Red and White Gallery artists, including Jesús Moroles, because I designed and published their books,” Jerry explained. “Then through those people, we met other artists. For instance, we met Laura Wilson through Mary Quiros, and we met Will Anzalone when we moved out here because he lives in Round Top.”
Red and White Gallery also features a variety of local artists based in Fayetteville, including the ceramicist Pat Johnson, watercolorist Mary Quiros, and photography by gallery-owners Joan and Jerry Herring — one series, titled Red Wall Portraits, documents visitors outside of the gallery against the red wall of the building. Red and White Gallery is a trove of some of the state’s most prolific artists, but the Herrings aren’t just inspired by art — they’re also take cues from the local community. The right-wing of the gallery was previously the Dawn Theater, which operated from the early 1900s to the 1960s. The Herrings regularly use the space as an extension of the gallery and also to host film screenings, artist talks, and other presentations, but now they’re embarking on a new theater project.
“Just looking at the population of Fayetteville and Round Top doesn’t tell you about all of the people who have places out in the country nearby. It’s a favorite spot of Houstonians, Austinites, and people from San Antonio. So, the population is much bigger and much more enthusiastic about art than one would think of a typical rural area,” Jerry told me. “This is why we’re spearheading this new theater project. The project is across the square in a big white building with a barricade. We’re fundraising to turn that [building] into a community center and a 150-seat performance center. It’s going to be a really interesting project, and we’re doing it because the whole area is excited about the arts, and quite frankly, it’s a lovely community.”
The Herrings’ Red Wall Portraits has become a fundraising initiative for the theater project. The series has amassed over 500 photos, a selection of which hang in the building’s foyer. According to Joan, their first exhibition of Red Wall Portraits hung three rows high and wrapped around the entirety of the main gallery space and the Dawn Theater room. Prints of all Red Wall Portraits to date are available with a minimum donation of $50 to benefit the future Fayetteville Community Center & Performance Theater.
Don’t underestimate the tenacity of a small-town gallery. As big cities in Texas become increasingly less affordable and accessible for creatives, many are flocking to smaller towns on their periphery. Veer off the interstate’s beaten path and you might just stumble upon the best little art gallery in Texas.
The 10 Year Exhibition is on display at Red and White Gallery through March 7, 2023.