Community steps up to save Stars of Texas art exhibit

Steve Nash
Brownwood Bulletin
Amanda Coers
Stars of Texas Juried Art Exhibit

After facing possible extinction a few weeks ago, the Stars of Texas Juried Art Exhibit — which was canceled for 2021 because of COVID — has leapt back to life.

Thanks to an infusion of new volunteers and the creation of a new committee to oversee the exhibit, the Stars of Texas is expected to return in 2022.

It had been feared that the cancellation of the 2021 exhibit — which was supposed to take place earlier this month at the Depot Civic and Cultural Center — would be permanent.

Veteran committee members had expressed weariness after working with the exhibit since its 1999 beginning, and it was noted that a new group needed to become involved before the exhibit could return.

Now, about 40 new volunteers have stepped forward, and some of them will be serving on the committee. 

‘Chairwoman-in-training’

Brownwood artist Amanda Coers, who has painted numerous murals on downtown buildings, recently agreed to chair the reconfigured committee.

The 41-year-old Coers described herself as the committee’s “chairwoman-in-training.” She said it’s still being worked out who is going to serve on the committee, which will consist of new as well as legacy members.

Coers added, “I really want to make the focus more about these wonderful volunteers who are stepping up to carry Stars forward. I’m just helping.  I’m just organizing details, that kind of stuff."

Other new elements of the exhibit include a redesigned logo and updated web page. Coers and her husband, Scott, worked on the new logo.

"One of the things that I did want to update was the logo, because we've had it for awhile," Coers said. "I was hopeful that if we came out with a new logo, it would generate interest in the exhibit and we could use that as a springboard to announce, 'hey, we're coming back.' It's almost like coming out of quarantine with maybe a new haircut or something … hey watch out, world, we’re back."

'Art breaks down boundaries’

Coers explained the reason for her commitment to the exhibit.

“I feel very very strongly about the importance of art in smaller communities,” Coers said. “Brownwood is rural. A lot of times our citizens and our community members don’t get to experience the arts at the level that our metropolitan neighbors do. I feel that art, and experiencing art, is transformative for people.

“Art breaks down boundaries, it introduces new ideas, it connects people, it helps inspire empathy and a sense of community and all of these wonderful things. And so I was very worried if we didn’t have Stars, which is just such a wonderful event, that we would lose a really crucial piece of the arts here in the community.”

Coers said she wanted to make sure the exhibit continued, especially for the students from area schools who visit the exhibit and watch the demonstrators.

The students may be exposed to art that they’ve never seen before, Coers said. “It could generate some kind of interest that could impact their life and make them more interested in art,” she said.

‘Glorious run’

The Stars of Texas Juried Art Exhibit began in 1999 and was conceived as a one-week show to celebrate the restoration and reopening of the Depot. The exhibit was so well received, it became an annual event that was extended to two weeks and became a statewide event.

The Arts Council of Brownwood has presented the exhibit with support from more than a dozen sponsors. 

Then COVID hit, and concerns over the pandemic forced the cancellation of what would have been the 23rd annual event in February 2021.

Members of the committee as it then existed cited health concerns, physical limitations, family situations and work conflicts among issues hampering their ability to continue serving.

The committee saw three options: continue with a new coordinator and new volunteers joining a few legacy members; discontinue the exhibit; or a different organization would put on the exhibit with its own vision.

“After a glorious run of 22 years, it’s possible that 2020’s exhibit was the end of the road,” Bulletin editor emeritus Gene Deason penned in a Jan. 27 column. “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.”

Saying ‘yes’

The Arts Council, meanwhile, chaired by Nick Ewen, had suggested the committee go public with the needs.

Coers explained the events that led to her agreement to chair a revamped committee.

After the event was canceled for 2021, Coers said, some of the veteran committee members and other volunteers began trying to find new folks who who could keep the event alive.

“The committee members were emailing each other,” Coers said. “I was part of that email thread because I had helped in the past with Stars, and had agreed to serve on the committee or help as needed.

“The question was put out whether I wanted to lead the committee going forward, and I said ‘yes,’ only because I wanted to make sure that the event kept going.”

Others step forward

Coers said she began communicating with a couple of Facebook groups including Real Women of Brown County.

“I asked that group if anybody wanted to help with the Stars, and a lot of them stepped forward — and that was really exciting,” Coers said.

“Some of their friends and acquaintances and folks in the community stepped forward.”

Coers added, “The main thing we do want to stress is we’re not changing anything about Stars other than the logo and updating the website.

“Just some new faces, maybe, behind the tables here and there. We’re really proud of the people who have stepped up to carry it forward.”