BC Center for Arts
By Judith Pannebaker
“I think every small town in the Hill Country has an art gallery except Bandera,” noted Art Crawford, owner of Artifacts. By next month, Crawford, with the help of partner, Lisa Beck, will have rectified that situation.
A move currently in the works will eventually culminate with a March grand opening of the nonprofit Bandera County Center for the Arts, a gallery and performance space at 714 Main Street, now the site of Crawford’s eclectic antiques and collectibles emporium.
Since the cavernous building on North Main will be designated as a gallery space, Crawford is currently relocating a portion of his treasures to Ranch Dressings, 330 Main Street, and joining forces with owner, Rochene Ray. The end result will be a remarkable juxtaposition of sophisticated western funk and Old World country elegance. With an increased sales staff, Ranch Dressings will now be open from 10 am until 5 pm, seven days a week.
The move enables Crawford to concentrate on turning 714 Main Street into one of Bandera’s art and performance jewels. Located just across from the Cabaret, which is also scheduled for extensive renovation, and the popular Mulberry Wine Bar, the Bandera County Center for the Arts will help jumpstart the revitalization of an often-neglected portion of the city.
Although renovations are still in the early stages, the affable Crawford confidently pointed out what the new art gallery would be like in just a few short weeks.
“The interior of the building will be painted off-white,” he said, “to show the artwork off at its best advantage.” The hue will also make the 5,000 square foot space look even more expansive.
“We’re installing movable partitions to allow the artists to mount their work and create different vignettes.” Crawford’s expanded definition of art also includes antiques and collectibles as well as more conventional paintings and sculpture.
“This will be a full blown art gallery open seven days a week. We’re looking for 20 artists who will rotate every four to six weeks. One weekend a month we’ll feature a special art exhibition,” he explained.
On Memorial Day weekend, artist Carole Boyd will offer pieces from Spirit House Gallery, along with work by Woody Woodward and other Native American artists. “The theme will be ‘Honoring our Southwestern Heritage,” Crawford said.
Plans are also in the works for an exhibition of cowboy art in conjunction with Bandera’s celebration of the National Day of the American Cowboy, set for Saturday, July 25, as well as a quilt show at an unspecified date.
According to Crawford, the gallery’s emphasis will be on local and Texas-based artists. By local, however, Crawford means throughout the county. “It’s going to be a Bandera County Center for the Arts, not just Bandera. We want to feature the work of artists from Utopia, Vanderpool, Medina, Lakehills - every part of the county,” he explained.
“Artists will not have to pay us a commission for displaying their work, nor will we charge any admission fees,” Crawford said. “We have applied for our 501(c)3 nonprofit designation and will be applying for grants.” He added, “Of course, donations will always be accepted.”
Bandera County Center for the Arts Board of Directors includes Dusty Pendleton, John Balistreri, Barry Ehrmann, Kirsten Hansen and Michael McAllister. Brandi McAllister and Kayrn Utterback, along with volunteers, will operate the gallery.
Because “music is art to me,” Crawford plans to offer musical performances in the center. “We’re going to build a small stage across the front wall,” he said “and offer informal performances in a non-smoking environment” - again at no charge, but with donations being accepted.
“We wanted to create a venue that entire families could enjoy.” While the art center will not serve food or beverages, Crawford encourages everyone to bring drinks and snacks to the performances.
“Lisa and I are going back to the studio this month to cut a CD with Lloyd Maines and John Inmon,” Crawford said. “Once the CD is out, we’ll start to perform more regularly.” Plans are also in the works for a weekend singer-songwriter workshop.
Along with the performance stage, Crawford also plans to install a movie screen for “Wednesday Nite at the Movies” at the center for the arts. “We’re going to show old movies and build evenings around themes, such as John Wayne, Charlie Chaplin or even silent movies,” he said. Clearly, however, Crawford can’t wait for county kiddies to see “The Wizard of Oz” on a big screen.
“I’ve wanted to do this since my first art show three years ago. I’ve been a fulltime antiques dealer since 1991, but lately I’ve gravitated to purchasing older art,” Crawford said. Merchandise he’s unable to take to Ranch Dressings will be taken to his shop in Oklahoma. He moved to Bandera fulltime in 1998 because of his antiques shop in Ryan, Oklahoma. “On my delivery trips here, I decided I really liked the area and eventually relocated to Bandera County,” Crawford said.
The shift in focus will also allow Beck to spend more time with her grandkids as well as her music, he said.
“I’ve always been involved in music and songwriting and music, art and antiques just seem to go together,” Crawford said.
As soon as the gallery is up and running and “all the kinks have been worked out,” Crawford will reveal additional exciting plans for the Bandera County Center for the Arts
“I’m really excited about what’s coming up,” he said. And the youth of the county will be, too.
Look for a grand opening notice for the Bandera County Center for the Arts in a future edition of the Bandera County Courier, Crawford plans to take everyone along on his next great adventure.