With vintage appeal and alternative spaces, Brownsville, Texas is welcoming the Flower Shop Residency, the city’s first artist in residence program. The three-bedroom residence and multipurpose space is meant to house three artists: one locally from Brownsville, one from the general Rio Grande Valley area, and one from elsewhere in the state of Texas.
The name Flower Shop Residency comes from the history of the residency’s building. What was originally a historic storehouse built in the 1930s was turned into a flower shop before, very recently, on August 3, 2023, being converted into a residence by artist Jesus Treviño.
Treviño is a longtime Brownsville resident, scholar, and creative who shares fragments of his life and his story through paintings and frescoes. His work deals with the social, personal, and emotional residues of movement and an unnatural boundary. He received his Asociate’s Degree from Texas Southmost College, a Bachelor’s of Fine Art at the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley (Brownsville), and a Master’s of Fine Arts at the University of Texas at Austin.
Treviño has also had the privilege of attending the Desert Door Residency in Austin, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture Residency in New York, and the Rockland Residency in Seattle. When asked about his reasoning for opening the Flower Shop Residency in Brownsville, Treviño shared that he intends to “demystify” the process of artmaking and show how attainable being an artist can be to the local community. He also wants to bring contemporary art to an area where it is not as accessible, and additionally he wants to challenge people’s perceptions about border communities, because “There is a specific idea of what a border community looks like, and I want to change that — change the perspective of Brownsville.”
Brownsville is listed as one of the poorest cities in the United States, according to a survey by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2021; it is also part of a larger political discussion regarding border control and illegal immigration, specifically migrant camps, ICE, and the border wall. Traditional media outlets often sensationalize ideas of what it’s like to be an immigrant or resident in Brownsville without visiting the city firsthand. You will see larger news outlets in McAllen or El Paso before you see them in Brownsville, and when they do come here, it is to film people who are crossing the river for a better life. In order to really see and witness what Brownsville is, you have to live here and watch the local media outlets, or read the independent journals, such as TruchaRGV. Treviño has tasked himself with sharing the hidden gem that is Brownsville with the rest of Texas and the world through his work and the residency.
The Flower Shop Art Studio recently had an open house on July 22 to share space’s potential as a home for creativity. Treviño invited Jesse Burciaga, Cecilia Sierra, and Josie del Castillo to exhibit with him in the space. Under the guidance of Leslie Ann Barrientos, in collaboration with Azalia Martinez, they created a pop-up exhibition titled Memory Garden. The show spanned the entirety of the residency space and included paintings, sketches, prints, digital photographs, and installations. The open house was met with praise by many local Brownsville artists, with the hope that this program will do just what Treviño wants to achieve: bring contemporary art and artists to the Rio Grande Valley and share the history and culture of Brownsville.
The artist-in-residence program is five-weeks and spans from October 5 to November 7, 2023. “This program is a product of Frontera Arts in Bloom, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, with the goal to cross-pollinate artists from different parts of Texas and provide opportunities to share perspectives and grow together in our community,” according to the Flower Shop Art Residency’s application page. The three artists will be selected via a committee to work with a creative administrator from Brownsville and will each receive a $1,000 stipend to support their work. They will have access to private bedrooms, a workshop with tools, and other equipment based on their needs. In return, the residents are expected to create or begin working on new work, participate in scheduled visits to various art institutions and historical sites in the city, and actively document their experience at the residency and in the city of Brownsville while tagging @flowershopartresidency on social media. Additionally, residents are expected to facilitate one community outreach event, participate in an open house, host studio visits for the public, and participate in a group pop-up exhibition towards the end of the residency.