Center serves as source of creativity as it seeks supporters
Long the hub of visual arts on the island, the Galveston Arts Center is re-emerging as a source of creativity, inspiration, artistic energy and community pride after a decade of significant trials that included structural failures in its downtown building, two hurricanes and the grind of maintaining a steady flow of operating funds.
“When I came to Galveston in the late 1970s, the arts center was a welcoming place for artists to work and learn from each other,” said Doug McLean, a sculptor and president of the center’s board of directors. “It was a true community resource, and it was a primary reason I was drawn here.
“Forty years later, it’s still here and there’s a new group of talented young artists with great energy and endless possibilities, all open to our community.”
Known as the creator and longtime host of ArtWalk — the popular downtown island event held eight times a year — the arts center also presents 16 to 24 original contemporary art exhibitions, talks by exhibiting artists, and a full schedule of classes for adults and children, including life drawing, ceramics and printmaking.
“We’re here to open the world of art to people who live in this community, young and old, novice and professional, those seeking meaning and self-expression and those seeking fun and relaxation,” he said.
Now at its permanent home in the First National Bank Building, 2127 Strand, the center needs the support of the community it serves, McLean said.
“It’s a pivotal point for the arts in Galveston,” McLean said. “How do we reach our potential? It’s the best possible time for local supporters to stand up and join the effort.”
The center has never charged for exhibitions, for ArtWalk or community activities, and the art classes it offers are free or low cost. Because of this, the arts center must rely on foundations, membership dues and donations to operate.
The journey forward is being led by the center’s new executive director, Lisa Shaw, formerly with the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas.
“We are here to make art accessible to people in our community,” Shaw sad. “We have opportunities for people of all ages and all skill levels to participate in art making and art appreciation activities.”
She’s not alone in her efforts. Director of Education Reyna Collura and Curator Dennis Nance complete the executive team.
“We are creative beings,” Nance said. “Whether we are making art or music or telling stories or being inspired by the art of others, art is how we express who we are and how we connect to each other.”
As curator, Nance reviews the work of hundreds of state and regional artists every year, viewing exhibitions, visiting studios and making contact with artists.
“I’m like a sponge, absorbing information, seeing as much work as possible, following artists on Instagram and taking in new work,” he said. “I am absorbing and filtering all the time. Some of the artists that are on the exhibition calendar I began talking with more than a year ago. It simmers until the moment it emerges.”
Nance hopes to promote rising artists, to nurture local artists and to make it possible for young artists to have a chance to find their own creative spark, he said.
In keeping with this vision, the center has increased its community outreach through “Art for All,” which Collura coordinates.
The program brings weekly art experiences to partner sites including the Resource and Crisis Center, the Ronald McDonald House, the Sunshine Center, the Transitional Learning Center and to the pediatric unit at the University of Texas Medical Branch, among others. The staff bring supplies, enthusiasm, patience and carefully chosen projects appropriate for age and abilities.
“We foster individual growth by encouraging these participants to explore the creative process in a nurturing, risk-free environment,” Collura said.
For the people who live in Galveston, whether they participate or not, the arts are a source of pride and wellbeing, especially for children, McLean said.
“Art improves physical and psychological wellbeing,” McLean said. “It gives us a way to articulate feelings and inspires us to look beyond what we think is possible to something more exciting and innovative. Art draws people together.”
To make a donation or become a member, visit www.galvestonartscenter.org. Sponsorships for exhibits also are available. Call Lisa Shaw at 409.763.2403.
Community volunteers are needed to work as exhibit docents and in preparation for events. Contact Reyna Collura at 409.763.2403 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Community members also can help by enrolling themselves or a child in a class. Visit www.galvestonartscenter.org/education/programs/ for information.