The Brownwood Art Association celebrated its 90th anniversary on Thursday evening with a Roaring Twenties gala featuring antique cars, food and drinks, a photo booth, a costume contest and art from throughout the organization’s history.   

The Art Center walls were decorated with pieces by past Art Association presidents and artists of the year, including Gaitha Browning, Ima Gem Queen and Sandra McSwain.   

Sharon Cook played a major role in organizing the gala. She helped track down pieces from artists of past generations for the night. “Some of the artists that are current members had a lot of their art from the past that they had saved,” Cook said. “Also, we have a heritage collection, which is a lot of stuff from the ’20s, ‘30s and ‘40s that we actually keep in stock, and keep as our memorabilia of the past presidents.”   

Cook said she was pleased with the event and the way it came together. “You can tell by the faces that everyone’s happy and having a great time,” Cook said.    

Cook emceed for a costume contest around 7 p.m. Women in flapper dresses and men in pinstripes and fedoras walked across the floor and were applauded by the other guests. The winners, Maria and Howard Berg, were chosen for receiving the loudest applause.   

Maria Berg said the couple is still relatively new in Brownwood, and said she joined the Art Association as a way to meet others. She said the 90th anniversary gala was a great chance to showcase the organization. “It gives us an opportunity to explore and expose different media, and at the same time meet some of the great artists, such as Robert Priddy,” Berg said. “Pat Coursey, Kit Timmins, Denise Sommer — there’s a lot of great artists.”   

The Brownwood Art Association was founded in 1927 as the Brownwood Art League, and is one of the oldest continuously operating art organizations in the state of Texas and, in fact, the entire country. After gaining nonprofit status in 2002, the Association moved into its current location at 215 Fisk Ave. in 2005.   

The Association offers weekly classes as well as a monthly art show, a group for photographers and an event called Muse & Merlot, where an instructor guides a class in painting a recreation of a famous work. The Association also hosts an open mic night on the third Thursday of each month, holds artist demonstrations and contributes scholarship money to local aspiring artists.   

Jim Blake is the current president of the Brownwood Art Association. He said the group has come a long way over the last several years, hosting events at its Art Center space over 200 days a year. But he thinks the group has the potential to do even more.   

“As always, we’re looking for new membership,” Blake said, “and looking at ways to expand the mission.” Blake said he hopes to further engage the community.   

“For the past few weeks, I’ve been looking at organizations similar to this one around the country,” he said, “and looking at some of the programs and procedures they have in place. We’ve really hardly scratched the surface of what’s possible.   

“I think one of the things I’d like to do before my time here is done is get one or two corporate sponsors to help further the education mission of the Association,” he said. “We’ve got some extremely talented younger students here in the high schools, and their teachers. We just need to bring it all together and get more people involved, because we need that new infusion of new blood and new thinking.”   

For now, though, Blake said he’s excited to honor the organization for everything it has been. “Continuity of 90 years is highly unusual,” he said. “It speaks to the dedication and hard work of past members and past presidents that made it the organization it is today.”   

Those wanting to join, donate to or learn more about the Brownwood Art Association can do so at www.brownwoodart.com. The exhibit of work by past group presidents and artists of the year will be viewable at the Art Center all month.