New studio spaces, activities enliven McAllen’s art scene
If you plant the seeds of creativity, art is likely to blossom – and inspire even more art. Just ask McAllen’s creative community.
Art classes of every variety are in demand, new studio spaces give artists room to work and exhibit, public art by an internationally renowned artist graces the city’s outdoor spaces, and new galleries are opening.
“It’s a fun time to be in McAllen,” says Nancy Millar, vice president and director of the McAllen Convention and Visitors Bureau for the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. “There is so much going on in the arts these days.”
The Creative Incubator
McAllen’s McA2 Creative Incubator has been a catalyst for the arts community’s growth since it was founded eight years ago, and now has expanded headquarters in what once was the city’s main library. Launched to enrich the community’s quality of life through the arts, the incubator has 19 rental studios where tenants work and teach classes that include painting, drawing, photography, violin, singing, modeling and more. The space is also used for continuing education classes by South Texas College and special events such as a poetry festival, art shows and a summer music series.
“I think it’s had a significant impact on the community,” Millar says. “There are more activities now, many of our restaurants now have live music, we have a wonderful historic theater with a program of live entertainment and classic films, things that weren’t around before all this began. Art begets art – once people begin seeing the value, and experience the arts, the desire and need for the arts grow.”
The Arts District
The Incubator is in the heart of McAllen’s Arts District, one of the first officially designated by the Texas Arts Commission. Its success has helped prompt still more space for artists, such as Art Studio by Design, launched by artist Karen Norberg in late 2013. Art by Design’s 10 resident artists share a vision Norberg holds dear.
“We wanted to form a group of active, involved artists who taught throughout the week,” Norberg says. “We love our studios, we love our resident artists, and everyone supports everyone else. We’re all about artists getting together, sharing and supporting each other in a creative community.”
Across the street, Art Village is buzzing with galleries, retail stores, creative businesses and event spaces. The Arts District’s venerable Nuevo Santander Gallery has earned a wide reputation for its Old West and Spanish Colonial antiques and collectibles. And McAllen’s unique International Museum of Art & Science exhibits world-class art, including a recent show by leading Mexican artist Sebastian, who has also loaned seven of his brightly colored, geometric sculptures to the city for two years.
“There’s a cultural tradition of the arts here, a real local flavor that combines the art of Mexico and the southern U.S.,” says Kirk Clark, well-known McAllen artist and chairman of the McAllen Public Arts Committee, which oversaw city funding of the outdoor sculpture project with the museum. “We’re also fortunate to have an appreciative and ever-more-curious public.”