RCA | Studio Tour Weekend Delivers Crowds And Huge Art Sales In Rockport Over 400 People Visited Each Studio

Almost 30 years ago the first Tour of Homes started a new Art Center tradition. After Hurricane Harvey, the organization of 49 years, spun the Tour in a new direction, featuring artists’ studios instead of homes.

The tour featured the studios of 5 established Rockport artists and one newcomer. Painters Carol Koutnik, Lisa Baer Frederick, Bonnie Lou Prouty, Elsa Matthews, silversmith Diane Johnson, and Austin - now Rockport based ceramicist Stan Irvin opened their studios for two days and over 400 visitors. Another 6 guest artists, from Rockport and beyond, rounded off the experience. Koutnik featured the contemporary works of Corpus Christi wunderkind David Hill and Jorge Alegria. Prouty featured jewelry by Martha Berkebile and ceramics by Betty Shamel. Both are local artists. Irvin featured whimsical ceramics by Austin based artist Susan Bell and paintings by local artist Anita Diebel. Koutnik, Baer Frederick, Prouty, Shamel, and Diebel are all past Art Festival poster artists. Irvin’s studio is adjacent to Art Center property and it was finished just prior to the Tour. The biggest surprise to locals and visitors was Silver Silo, Diane Johnson’s uniquely shaped temple for silver, turquoise and indigo garments.

The three-day weekend started on Friday, April 6, with a Kick-off party at the home of Ann and Stan Smith. Over 225 people attended. Paying homage to the Tour of Homes, Art Center docents lead tours of the spectacular waterfront home, which features elevated 180 degree views of Aransas Bay. The event was chaired by Jean James and Melba and Tom York.

“Over 470 people visited the Art Center over the three day weekend, they were buying a lot of art. These were serious collectors from Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston; happy to see something new,” states Art Center Executive Director, Luis Purón. Full Circle, a solo exhibition featuring 70 pieces of glass work by Corpus Christi artist Brad Pearce, a protégé of Steve Russell, pulled in the crowds and the sales materialized.

Initially billed as a cultural tourism event for visitors to learn about artist’s medium, process, technique and have one-of-a kind opportunities to build on their art collections; the event delivered attendance in smaller numbers than the Tour of Homes. However, the experience succeeded in connecting the dots between art commerce and tourism. Weekend sales exceeded $50,000, making artists very happy. Betty Shamel, a Studio Tour artist states “Art is one of the things that makes our town unique. Art Center support with the tour and advertisement paid off.”

“One of the things Rockport’s business leadership has been keen on observing is the state of the economy,” states Purón. He adds, “Tourism is our biggest industry, it is fueled in part by the fact that we are an art colony. Artists have thrived here, launched careers, sustained them for decades, and acquired great notoriety in other markets. It is reassuring that this is still happening.” The Tour was chaired by Patsy Griggs and Debbie Jackson, longtime patrons of the Art Center, who got to share in visitors’ excitement about the new activity.

This summer, the Art Center will turn its attention to its hallmark event, the Rockport Art Festival. The spotlight will be cast on a new poster artist, Debbie Stevens of Cypress, Texas. For the 49th edition of the event, over 120 artists from across the United States will impact art commerce under the tents on the festival grounds.


Total attendance per studio 404
Local visitors 55%
Corpus Christi visitors 14%
Major metro visitors 17% (most robust market, San Antonio)
Out of state visitors 6%
Rural Texas < 70 miles 2%

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