‘Mother of Texas’ inspires artists to open sole gallery on Bolivar Peninsula
After retiring from the banking and mortgage industry, Charlotte Stirling had a lot more time to devote to her favorite hobby — refurbishing vintage vanity chairs.
Glenda Mastin, retired from industrial and chemical sales, was busy making things out of stained glass and anything found on the beach.
Today, along with several other local artists, they’re showing their work at the newly opened Gallery by the Gulf on Bolivar Peninsula.
But it was a long time coming.
The previous gallery, which included a museum, was heavily damaged during Hurricane Ike in 2008 and never returned. The storm left local artists without a place to display their work, except for occasional festivals.
With help from the Bolivar Peninsula Cultural Foundation and some community-minded residents, money from the Jane Long Festival — held yearly since 2009 — paved the way for a new gallery.
The gallery, upstairs at 1980 state Highway 87, is overflowing with ingenious works of art.
Operating as a nonprofit, the gallery’s mission is to provide local artists a place to promote their craft, while providing the community and visitors with a viable art center.
The gallery got this far through inspiration from Jane Long, known as the “Mother of Texas,” Stirling said. Long spent a winter on Bolivar Peninsula in 1821, alone and pregnant, while her husband, James, left with some of his soldiers to incite Texas settlers into declaring their freedom from Spain and establishing the Republic of Texas.
James Long eventually was captured, imprisoned and then shot in Mexico.
After his death, Jane Long remained resilient in her efforts to protect Fort Las Casas — now Fort Travis.
“We embraced her story as we all recovered from Ike,” Stirling said.
Gallery by the Gulf even offers Jane Long jewelry for sale, designed specifically for the gallery by artist Jack Hall of Seabrook.
Other artists involved with the gallery include: Belinda Bailey, Dana Dekerlegand, Cheri Duggan, Scott Hanson, Zeb Hickman, Alice Hurlbert, Margaret Lindow, Sharon Rigsby, Angela Travis and Ron Venable.
The area occupied by Bailey and Travis features an assortment of repurposed furniture, glass art, painted mermaids and seashells.
Duggan’s acrylics on canvas and Lindow’s beachcomber “found art” pop with color. Hickman’s contemporary paintings also occupy this space.
Dekerlegand, who calls her art “Beach Gypsy,” has a style of her own, turning ordinary shipping pallets into birdhouses, crosses and cutouts of marine life. She also makes key chains out of corks and beach glass, and designs jewelry.
Hanson’s round table — with its pedestal base made of rafter tails from part of the island’s recently demolished military housing at Fort Crockett — is a sight to behold. Venable’s specialty is painting on salvaged wood.
Mastin and Rigsby’s “All Washed Up” area is full of mosaics, driftwood and shells.
“We like to find things on the beach that have washed ashore and make art out of them,” Mastin said. “We also incorporate things like stained glass, pottery, beads, old jewelry and china into our art and even made a light fixture out of an old galvanized chicken feeder.”
Stirling’s “Powder Your Nose” space features her one-of-a-kind revamped vanity chairs.
“When I find one that needs a home, I buy it and repurpose it,” said Stirling, who often affixes her signature tassel to the back.
Hulbert’s painted gourds have a special display area of their own — in the gallery’s bathroom.
“With only 900 square feet of space, we had to make use of every inch of it,” Stirling said.
Other artists have pieces on consignment at the gallery, and a different exhibitor is featured each month.