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The Bend Magazine

Art Throughout the Pages

03/01/2019 04:00AM ● By Julieta Hernandez

By: Julieta Hernandez  Photos by: Rachel Benavides

Documenting the development of an art community is an idea that frequently crosses the minds of many persons in charge of art centers, but often never actually gets to happen. Co-authors Kay Betz and Vickie Merchant, as well as Steve Russel, whose work will be featured on the book's cover, will be showcasing this community in a neat book bind when Boats, Bays, and Birds is released, and we’re excited to read all about it.

“We have collected enough art to fill three books since Rockport has attracted thousands of artists over the years,” says Merchant. “All proceeds from sales of the book will help fund the History Center’s exhibits and educational programs. And, we believe it will continue to help attract cultural tourists and art lovers to the area to help with our economic post-Harvey recovery.” 

The artists and volunteers attached to the History Center in Nueces County, Texas, have plucked up the passion to research and publish a book that’s going to provide a detailed, colorful insight into the story about the blossoming art colony in our region over the years. The resultant publication will be all-encompassing: cataloging the contributions of all the different types of hands who have played roles in the growth of the colony from its earliest stages up to date, ranging from the volunteers to the world-renowned artists who have made the region their fort across the years.  

Besides Aransas County’s devoted art followers, bigger hands from Texas also took interest in this project. Charles Butt of H-E-B was all for the book upon hearing about it, and with the help of Regina Garcia of the H-E-B Gulf Coast Region, the H-E-B Tournament of Champions ended up donating $37,500 for the book. We can also thank the Texas Historical Foundation for donating to the book, which will make a nice addition to Texas history documentation.

An early glimpse into the contents of the book will reveal some unique aspects that will probably be of interest to readers. Unlike the typical publication that an art lover would find in a gallery, one centered exclusively on the works of artists, Boats, Bays, and Birds promises to be a documentary of the broader story of the communities in Rockport and Fulton. It will narrate the stories of the earliest settlers in the area, as well as the role that distinguished visitors to the region played in transforming a relatively isolated countryside into a popular art conclave. Even more crucially, the account will provide a touching story of the way that the interaction of humans with the “unspoiled landscape” resulted in one of the most compelling art societies ever created in the United States – and in the midst of all this, the emergence of the History Center.

“Much like a tidal pool, the colony has ebbed and flowed over the years, but it continues because of unique, purposeful, and colorful people who have cared about art.,” says Betz. 

“Each chapter is followed by representative ‘portraits’ of those who were part of each time period or theme, making their mark in the mosaic of the colony. Some are well known; others are not. One of the principal tenets of the book is that volunteers who contributed time and energy behind the scenes are as important to the overall success and sustainability of the art colony as the charismatic artist – the hobbyist painter who took lessons, volunteered and made refreshments for art openings or the former banker or socialite who raised money for initiatives and programs.”