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TGIF: Stars of Texas Art Exhibit might have reached end of line

Gene Deason
Editor emeritus / Brownwood Bulletin
Gene Deason

This weekend last year, artists whose works had been selected for the Stars of Texas Juried Art Exhibit gathered at the Depot Civic and Cultural Center to find out who had won cash awards.

That won’t be happening this year. Several months ago, the volunteer committee announced that the 2021 exhibit was being cancelled, a victim of the pandemic. Too many people have to be in tight quarters for too long in order to make such an event possible, and such conditions simply aren’t safe right now.

With the reality setting in that there won’t be a Stars of Texas exhibit in 2021, the question now arises about the future — and specifically about 2022. Another cancellation is facing the community. After a glorious run of 22 years, it’s possible that 2020’s exhibit was the end of the road.

Each February, the Depot Civic and Cultural Center has been home for the annual Stars of Texas Juried Art Exhibit. A juried exhibit means that works being shown are selected from among multiple entries by an experienced individual in the art field.

The awarding of more than $6,000 in cash prizes highlights the show, which is open to the public for two weeks. Buyers have the opportunity to purchase pieces at prices set by the artists.

The Stars of Texas Juried Art Exhibit was established in 1999 in order to showcase the newly restored Santa Fe Depot. A community committee undertook the task of developing a one-week show, in which artists primarily from the Brown County area participated. Chaired by Ann Jones for its first five years, the exhibit developed into a two-week exhibit. Roger Levesque assumed its leadership as the exhibit continued to expand from a mostly area show to a truly statewide event.

Ruth Wheelis, who was chair for two years, oversaw a continued increase in the number of visitors to the exhibit. Donna Lewis assumed the chair for two years. Ruth Wheelis again chaired the exhibit in years 13 through 21, and Pauline McBride headed the event last year. Throughout, the committee achieved impressive goals both for artist participation and visitor attendance.

But with this year’s pandemic interruption in what — until now — has been an annual event, the committee is evaluating what the future might hold. Most members of the committee have been involved in putting it on since its inception. It’s a labor of love, to be sure, but this is not simply a two- or three-week endeavor. Planning must start for the next exhibit almost as soon as the current one ends, and it has remained a success only because of volunteers’ ongoing efforts during the year.

If the Stars of Texas Juried Art Exhibit is to have a 23rd event in 2022, several things must happen. A new chairman must take over the leadership role, but that won’t be as daunting a task as it might seem. A track record of what to do, and when, has been established. While several committee members with that institutional memory are asking to step down, others are interested in remaining active. Perhaps the exhibit can carry on as before, but with several new faces. Or perhaps a different organization will step forward and revamp the show with a new format.

For several decades, the Arts Council of Brownwood has been the key driving force promoting arts of all categories in our community. As the presenting sponsor of the Stars of Texas Juried Art Exhibit throughout the years, the Arts Council has played an important role in the success and growth of the exhibit.

Additionally, major awards presented to artists have been sponsored by several groups, businesses and individuals. Recognition of being included in the show and winning the jurist’s favor are important, but those significant cash awards, after all, have helped attract the best art available.

Keeping the exhibit running won’t be an easy task, but nothing of value ever is. It’s time to see what the community wants to do.

Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column “TGIF” appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at tgifcolumn@yahoo.com.