Richter Architects completes new home for beloved South Texas arts center

Art in Rockport

Richter Architects completes new home for beloved South Texas arts center

Exterior of the Rockport Center for the Arts (Pam Fulcher/Courtesy RCA)

Of the more than 35,000 museums in the United States, the vast majority are small, regional institutions that celebrate local history and support local artists. They host workshops and events, provide meeting spaces for community organizations, and show the work of makers and artists in and beyond the community, usually on a shoestring budget. Given these conditions and financial constraints, it is big news when a small operation like The Rockport Center for the Arts (RCA) gets a brand new building.

RCA, located about 30 miles northeast of Corpus Christi, hosts exhibitions, events, and workshops for young people and adults in the coastal city of Rockport, Texas. Hurricane Harvey gutted their original building in 2017; since then, the 53-year-old organization has been working out of a temporary space. In 2021, the Corpus Christi–based Richter Architects broke ground on RCA’s permanent home.

exterior of grey museum at night
The exterior of the Rockport Center for the Arts at night. (Pam Fulcher/Courtesy RCA)

Of the two buildings on the 1.2-acre site the first building contains four galleries and five classrooms across two stories and 14,000 square feet. On the ground floor, the 850-square-foot Mendez Family Gallery is dedicated exhibition space for member artists. There’s a special classroom for advanced workshops, a ceramic studio, and a space devoted to jewelry-making, photography, painting, and other arts.

Across the quad, the second building is home to the The Rockport Conference Center (The ROCC), and an 8,000-square-foot performing arts and event center. While the full campus grand opening isn’t until December 11, the ROCC hosted its first official event, The Rockport Film Festival, last month.

The buildings are built to be as hurricane-proof as possible. They are reinforced with concrete block, supported by concrete columns, and piled atop an extra deep foundation, according to Texas Architect. While most of this fortification is invisible, the grey exterior fiber cement lap siding hints at the concrete throughout. North-facing sawtooth roof monitors flood galleries and classrooms with sunlight while also adding a playfulness to the otherwise heavy volumes.

“Our goal is to create an arts enclave that is both strong and inviting,” Richter Architects Principal Elizabeth Chu Richter told Texas Architect around the time of the groundbreaking.

sculpture of sitting man with dog in a garden
A sculpture in the garden. (Pam Fulcher/Courtesy RCA)

The architects enhanced the buildings with a sculpture garden and rooftop terrace to take advantage of RCA’s almost-waterfront location (the complex is a block away from Aransas Bay). The 16,000-square-foot Patricia Bennett Moore Sculpture Garden showcases nine works from the permanent collection surrounded by greenery and pools. A small rooftop terrace allows visitors to look out onto the sculptures and over the bay.

No museum is complete without a gift shop, of course. The RCA’s is stocked with handmade works from member artists in a range of media.

“Having four galleries allows us to have multiple exhibitions at a time while giving us the opportunity to focus more on the individual artists and their work,” said Elena Rodriguez, curator of exhibitions for Rockport Center for the Arts,  in a press release. “And everything here is state of the art. The walls are very tall with no windows, giving us great flexibility in our displays, with beautiful lighting capabilities and a great audio-visual setup allowing us to incorporate those elements into the exhibitions. The spaces will be ever-changing; nothing is permanent.”

The two inaugural shows are The Big Wave!, the annual member artists’ exhibition, as well as Standing Out 2022, a showcase of the work of members Alison Schuchs, Jim Blaylock and Shelly Wierzba. Both shows are open through January 2023.

The RCA grand opening is on December 11. More information on hours and admission can be found here.