Big Day for Center for the Arts

RCA Executive Director Luis Purón addresses the crowd prior to the groundbreaking for the RCA’s new downtown Rockport campus. Pictured in the background is the old Kline’s Café building, on blocks, waiting to be moved to its new site a few blocks away. It had to be moved to make room for the RCA’s new complex.

The Rockport Center for the Arts (RCA) broke ground on its new 22,000-square-foot campus Tuesday, Feb. 23. The 1.18-acre site is located at 204 S. Austin Street, in the heart of downtown Rockport.

Aransas County Judge C. H. “Burt” Mills, Rockport Mayor Patrick R. Rios, Congressman Michael Cloud’s representative Luis Buentello, other elected officials, members of the Aransas County Long Term Recovery Team (LTRT), and members of the public joined RCA Executive Director Luis Purón, RCA staff, and members of the RCA Board of Directors for the momentous occasion.

Construction is set to begin immediately. It is the first original facility to be built for the celebrated 52-year-old non-profit organization. Completion of the $8.7 million RCA is scheduled for mid-2022.

It will be home to hallmark programs in the 13,000-square-foot visual arts and art education complex, as well as an 8,000-square-foot performing arts facility and convention center featuring a culinary arts education kitchen and multiple breakout rooms for meeting space. The site will also include a 16,000-square-foot outdoor sculpture garden housing works from the RCA’s permanent collection of sculptural works by nationally and internationally recognized artists.

Richter Architects of Corpus Christi designed the new facility. Teal Construction Company, also of Corpus Christi, is the general contractor.

“The new art center is something we have been talking about and planning since before Hurricane Harvey destroyed our original harborfront facility in 2017,” said Purón. “We are building modern facilities that will allow us to expand the breadth of our programs, primarily the performing arts and the culinary arts. These facilities will also serve to attract business tourism to Rockport, during the midweek timeframe.”

Identified as an anchor for downtown economic revitalization, the new facilities will also create many job opportunities in the fields of administration, sales, visual arts, arts education, performing arts, cinematic arts, culinary arts, and convention facility administration and destination management.

“The building of a new RCA is a major step in the recovery from the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey,” said Rios. “Our community will have a beautiful new facility that will showcase our dedication to the arts and be home for local and visiting artists. I am extremely proud of everyone that has worked so hard to make this happen.”

Although unable to attend, Congressman Cloud provided a statement regarding the new project.

“There is a very distinct and vibrant art culture in Rockport, and the RCA is at the center of that,” said Cloud. “For years, it has provided opportunities and resources by displaying local artwork, cultivating creativity among students, and contributing to the tourism industry that abounds in Rockport. I want to express my gratitude to all those who made this day possible. I look forward to returning to Rockport soon to see the new RCA for myself.”

Funding for the new facility comes from many private and public sources. Following the loss of the original 5,762-square-foot facility next to Rockport Harbor, the RCA engaged in a silent capital campaign. From March 2018 to August 2020, approximately $4.4 million was raised through major gifts from private, corporate, and foundation contributions, with the public fundraising phase of the Imagine campaign now officially kicking off.

The City of Rockport and LTRT provided assistance in the effort, partnering with the RCA to help secure a $5 million grant from the United States Department of Commerce–Economic Development Administration (EDA). Additional disaster recovery funding came via the Texas General Land Office, which will provide a generous public parking area one block from the new campus.

On May 20, 2019 - RCA’s 50th Anniversary - the Capital Campaign Committee formed the 50ROCK! Society made up of individuals, families, and partner organizations with close ties to the RCA. The Society’s aim is to be the cornerstone for the organization’s future by making a significant investment in the membership’s ability to explore their creative spirit. Through member donations, ranging from $10,000 to $39,000, $760,000 has already been raised.

“Opportunities to invest at that level are being offered for a limited time,” Purón said. “We are thankful to all of the Texas families that are the cornerstone of our community and have made a significant investment in our future.”

At Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremony, Purón said, “This groundbreaking marks the official launch of the public phase of the capital campaign so that everyone in our community can be part of the success of this project. To take part in the campaign you can acquire the official limited edition t-shirt ‘I Helped Build Rockport Center for the Arts’, or you can also visit rockportartcenter.com/imagine and make a donation there.”

He thanked the City of Rockport (represented by Mayor Rios and City Manager Kevin Carruth), Judge Mills and LTRT members John Strothman and Kim Foutz.

“Without them the EDA grant would not be a reality,” said Purón.

He noted the RCA staff has worked with amazing Boards of Directors represented by presidents Terry Baiamonte (2016), Jean Giesey (2017), Hugh Morrison (2018 and 2019), Mary Hime (2020), and Rebecca Bridges Rice (2021).

“These leaders are true champions of the Arts in Texas,” said Purón.

“I also thank the members of the Imagine Capital Campaign team (led by Mary Hime), John Jackson for his contributions to this project by assisting with the land acquisition in 2016, Hugh Morrison, Sara Morrison, Ron Young, and our consultant Marion Lee.”

Members of the Imagine Capital Project Team, including Board Member Larry Beavers, Richter Architects (represented by award winning architect Elizabeth Chu Richter and Aaron Geiser, who designed the coastal contemporary facilities), and John Murray and Michael Miller from Teal Construction Company were recognized at the groundbreaking, as well.

“I dedicate this groundbreaking to the vision of a handful of artists that formed the guild that became the Rockport Art Association, Inc. in 1969.  Our founding fathers are represented here by artist Steve Russell,” said Purón .

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