The Rebirth and Rebuilding of the Rockport Center for the Arts


When Luis Puron first took over as Executive Director in 2015 for the Rockport Center for the Arts (RCA), little did he anticipate that two years later Hurricane Harvey would slam into the city of Rockport and leave the Art Center Building, located near Aransas Bay, completely damaged.

Amidst the wreckage, Puron, together with the RCA Board of Directors and dedicated staff, immediately restored operations, never canceling any programs or events. Puron believes that within challenges there are opportunities.

“At the time of the disaster, I felt strongly that we needed to be there for our community and start all our programs as soon as possible so there would be something social and healing for people to do while they were engaged in salvage efforts,” Puron said.

Despite not having a building, the RCA hosted the International Traveling exhibit “Birds in Art” only 34 short days after Hurricane Harvey, partnering with the Art Museum of South Texas in Corpus Christi.

“We started Free Family Saturdays 23 days after the storm,” he said. “That November we also hosted the Rockport Film Festival. And 99 days later we opened the Kline’s Café Building as a gallery, a gift shop, offices, and a classroom.”

In 2018, the Board and Puron were instrumental in launching a successful $12.5 million capital campaign. Working with such local entities as Aransas County Long Term Recovery and the City of Rockport, the campaign was able to procure a multimillion-dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce in March 2019 to make the Art Center’s building more resilient, restore its sculpture garden, and add a venue/conference center.

This federal grant, specifically for economic development, invested $5 million after certain contingencies were met. The grant required a financial match between $3-7 million, a public partnership, and an organization that already had land. The City of Rockport became the project’s public partner. As a result of a major gift campaign, an acre of land was purchased in the heart of downtown Rockport in 2016 for a new campus and planned expansion. This not only fulfilled the federal grant’s requirements, but followed the 2016-2021 Strategic Plan developed at a board retreat in September 2015.

With two additional tracts acquired the summer of 2020 in a land investment of $900,000, the project was able to expand onsite parking. Thanks to funding from the Texas General Land Office, a 56 space parking lot was built one block away from the new venue. To date, 800 gifts and pledges have been received exceeding $7.5 million.

The project first broke ground on February 23, 2021, with construction beginning the first of April. An estimated $9 million was budgeted for the brick-and-mortar portion of the project (22,000 sq. ft. total) and a sculpture garden (16,000 sq. ft.). Construction of this 1.2 acre campus was completed December 2022.

Construction of this 1.2 acre campus was completed in December of 2022, with the venue center branded “The Rockport Conference Center.”

Business tourism, culinary, performing, media and literary arts will be added to existing visual arts and art education programs that were started in 1969, the year the organization was incorporated.

The new Rockport Center for the Arts officially opened their doors with a Ceremonial Ribbon Cutting and invitation-only event taking place on Saturday evening, December 10, 2022, where state and local dignitaries commemorated the completion of the Project and opened to the public on Sunday December 11, 2022.

“The future for Rockport as an Arts community is very bright.”

– Luis Puron, RCA Executive Director

“The future of Rockport as an Arts community is very bright,” Puron said. “We have spent the past six years planning how to improve our staple programs: the visual arts and art education for all age levels. Since last summer, we have been planning and now executing programs in the performing arts and the culinary arts for all age levels.”

The RCA began its new expanded operating hours for the galleries and gift shop: Tuesday-Saturday from 10am-5pm  and Sunday 12pm-4pm. Admission is always free.

The new $12.5 million campus includes a two-story, 14,000 sq. ft. visual arts and art education building, which will be serving as the home to hallmark art programs with four spacious galleries and five classrooms, as well as the Rockport Conference Center, an adjacent 8,000 sq. ft. conference and event center on the campus.  

“We are also growing our Arts community with more gallery spaces along Austin Street, with more artists visiting Rockport to teach or take classes, and more resident artists or artists from different parts of the United States having exhibits here,” Puron added. 

“A friend helped us produce the moniker ‘The Heart and Soul of Rockport,’  and the Art Center has been the community gathering space for many decades,” Puron said. 

“We have built a reputation across the country as a place that celebrates the Arts. For many generations, people have moved here from different parts mainly because Rockport offers a world class Art center that positively affects the quality of life in our community.”  

With state-of-the-art facilities for diverse and new programs, Puron sees the RCA regaining its title as the place people gather for community, fellowship, intellectual discussions and wholesome family fun. And thanks to the area’s natural resources, its community mind’ set for historical preservation, natural resource conservation, above-par birding, and other eco-tourism related activities, Rockport is THE Destination for artists to recreate painterly coastline on canvas, paper or film.

“More space, better space, state of the art facilities with correct audio-visual will go a long way in making Rockport the most competitive community on the coast to explore your creative spirit,” Puron said. 

The Rockport Center for Arts is located at 204 S Austin St., Rockport,  Texas.

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