With hopes to be the center of the RGV art community
EDINBURG -- Great ideas often come around when you least expect them. In 2007, a group of friends shared a cup of coffee and only wished there was more in their city to promote the arts. Now, they’ve become the Edinburg Arts Foundation (EAF) and they have big plans in store for the future.
But becoming a city’s arts liaison was no easy task. Establishing what exactly the city was lacking was the first step.
“We attended a meeting with all the economic development corporations in Hidalgo County,” Edna Peña, EAF board president said. “They were trying to attract big corporate companies, but if a CEO is going to come in, they’re going to bring their family.”
There needs to be something to offer that visitor in terms of entertainment and other cultural experiences than just a movie theater and restaurants.
This is when the idea of the Valley becoming a destination for people who love art came about. With the support of the city council the Edinburg Arts Foundation began on events that would add quality of life to the city.
From these ideas came the culture activities board which had the function to communicate to the city leadership the cultural needs.
“That’s when we decided that we need to make more events for the city, and make the downtown area the hub,” Peña said.
Other cities had started similar initiatives to promote the arts. Around that time, McAllen had begun hosting their signature Art Walk once a month. With that in mind, sprouted Jardin Del Arte at the city hall courtyard.
It became a monthly event where the community could come out, buy local art and enjoy refreshments and live music -- adding an option for people wanting a little more than just dinner and a movie.
“Jardin del arte was not only an important first step to the promotion of the arts in Edinburg,” Director of Library & Cultural Arts for the City of Edinburg Letty Leija said. “It was the catalyst for the formation of the Edinburg Arts Foundation as well as a cultural arts division for the city.”
The Cultural Arts Division focuses on providing rich and diverse artistic events like The South Texas International Film Festival, Fridafest and Los Muertos Bailan to name a few. But those events were only leading up to something bigger.
CULTURAL ARTS CENTER
Downtown Edinburg isn’t particularly known to be an arts or entertainment district. At least not now.
In front of city hall, off 8th Street, lies what used to be Sam Houston Elementary School. Right now, it’s just an abandoned building; but soon, it will be the South Texas Cultural Arts Center.
The location was key. It was one of the first schools in Edinburg, which holds cultural and historic value. As more businesses open up downtown, it will soon become the city’s hub.
“We don’t really have a historical district, so it really does preserve history in a way,” Peña said. “It’s preserving it yet still adding a little more urban-modern design -- we’re transforming something old and bringing something new. We felt that it was such a beautiful building and so centralized. It becomes a little central park.”
The building used to belong to Edinburg CISD. With the support of the city council, they acquired it in December 2016. Currently on the property students still occupy the VISION Academy but they will find a new location at the end of the school year.
The Edinburg Arts Foundation board knew this building needed to be used as the cultural center. The former mayor and council were all on board with the project.
Often is the case new leadership on the council bring new ideas but Mayor Richard Molina is on board with building the cultural arts center.
“As soon as the students are released we are going to move forward,” Molina said. “That's the whole backyard of the master plan.”
Often, the artists in the Valley may feel neglected by the community and may choose to continue their career elsewhere. The EAF envisions the Cultural Arts Center to serve as a place where the public can be exposed to art -- and where artists can gain recognition -- domestically.
Now that the building has been acquired by the city, the foundation’s task is mustering enough funds to fill the interior. The organization is predominantly funded by membership and donations.
“The main thing is getting money for the facility,” said Bennie K. Carlson, treasurer of the EAF.
In previous years, art has been donated to the foundation, but they’ve had no formal facility to keep it. They’re hoping to accept many memorials and memorandums as well, Carlson said.
Ultimately, they wish to see the center become the Valley’s next big tourist attraction.
THE IMPORTANCE OF ART
Having an arts facility at their disposal will undoubtedly change the way children in the Valley grow up. Giving them an outlet to enjoy and pursue all kinds of endeavors can help make the most of the talent that is already here.
“The kids here have so much talent,” Agustin Lozano, vice president of the EAF. “We have so much talent and our kids are craving the acknowledgment and the knowledge to go further and above, that’s what gives me a sense of urgency for this art center.”
Hopefully the center can help not only attract artists and art-lovers from across the state, but retain the ones that come from here. One day, Peña said, she hopes the center can be a place that artists aspire to be showcased at.
“Way in the future, we want it for it to be a prestigious place where someone can say ‘Wow, my work was displayed at the South Texas Cultural Center,’” she said.