Reflections about Rockport, its Art Community and the Concept of Home after Hurricane Harvey by Luis Purón, Executive Director

After encouraging my staff to evacuate on August 24, 2017, I left for Mexico where I waited for Hurricane Harvey to pass. Once there, I roamed the rooms of a century old house built with brick from D’Hanis, Texas. The single-story building was a United States consulate office before it was purchased by my paternal grandfather as a future home for his growing family. I slept in the bedroom where my father was born in 1939. As a teenager, I lived in this house with my grandmother, Socorro, during one of her ailments. This was the first house I entered as a new born, in my Mother’s arms, a few days after President John F. Kennedy was fatally shot. My grandmother’s home, now my mother’s, has always been a constant in my life, a pied-à-terre.

For over a decade, visits home have been sporadic, primarily because I spent thirteen years living in the East coast. Returning to my childhood place, this time, had a profound effect on me. I am not sure if it was uncertainty for the future caused by the fact that I didn't fully comprehend what would become of my life after Harvey.

For the past two years and four months, my work responsibilities have consumed much of my spare time, but the truth is, I fell in love with Rockport, so I seldom leave. My routine is simple, I wake-up every morning, answer emails while having a cup of coffee, and then I drive from my little brick house to the old blue house we call Rockport Center for the Arts. The house turned into a temple for art in 1983 thanks to a gift from the O’Connor family. My office sits between two bodies of water. From the window, I can see both; and catch a glimpse of two Ullberg and two Moroles monuments. Not a bad place to be, if you are searching for inspiration and motivation. I work with the most creative team of professionals. Together, we drive forward programs and events that have been passed down to us by other generations. We are passionate stewards of this inheritance, which includes the legacy of our art colony. We innovate and add value to everything our hands touch; most of the time with humble success.

Natural disasters, while varying in devastation, wreak havoc upon those who find themselves in circumstances beyond their control. As has been widely reported, Harvey's mighty wrath caused irreparable damage to Rockport’s home for art. Yet our arts community is intact; in fact it is stronger, more resilient and united than ever.

As Executive Director, during the last 30 days, my goals have been simple: keep the team united; restore operations; communicate with the membership; shore-up programs and events people expect; and leverage assets. With the Board’s aide I have made significant strides on all fronts. Response and support from across the country has been tremendous. But this is what people do- help one another adjust sails during rough weather.

Our facility was compromised on the eve of our blockbuster exhibit, Birds in Art. I immediately reached out to Joe Schenk and asked for his help. His answer: a resounding "yes." What the Art Museum of South Texas has done during our hour of need is simply remarkable. Words do not exist to properly thank the magnificent people of this institution for their friendship, generosity and professionalism.  

"Rockport will need Birds in Art," I thought while I was in Mexico. Then acts of kindness and miracles started to happen. Financial support for a show this huge is critical. A corporate sponsorship emerged through South Texas Money Management LTD the day after the storm. The exhibit was underwritten by M.A. and Pete Fischer. That gift is the absolute genesis of Birds in Art’s migration to its southernmost display location, which began four years ago. A grant from The Margaret Sue Rust Foundation was received early this year. And a generous and maiden contribution from Bill Richmond, a Corpus Christi patron of the arts, also emerged in September; another tremendous show of support. Government funding from the Texas Commission on the Arts and the City of Rockport was already in place.

Very special thanks to Joe Schenk, and the entire Art Museum of South Texas family, for giving Birds in Art a safe landing and hospitable shelter in the Coastal Bend.

Thank you for your continued support.

Luis Purón
Executive Director

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