For over 20 years the Galveston Arts Center has organized and produced ArtWalk approximately every six to eight weeks on Saturday nights in the heart of the historic district.
The GAC encourages a working relationship with both the non-profit and commercial art spaces in the city by coordinating exhibition opening nights. Not a street festival, ArtWalk takes place in existing commercial galleries, non-profit arts spaces and what are called "other walls" (restaurants and retail stores, for example). Now spreading to other parts of the island, each exhibits art and welcomes viewers with open doors, later hours and refreshments.
One of the Galveston Arts Center's largest programs, the event attractions between 1,000 to 3,000 visitors per evening, promotes visual art and artists, offers alternative places to see and learn about art and hopes to bring newcomers, as well as welcome return visitors to the art community on the island.
The Galveston Arts Center, a non-profit 501(c) 3 organization, was incorporated in 1986 as the primary center of contemporary art serving a culturally diverse, eight county area between Houston, Corpus Christi and Beaumont. Housed in the historic First National Bank building (1878) at the corner of 22nd and Strand, the GAC was first founded as the Centre on the Strand in 1968. At that time the Junior League of Galveston County donated the building for use as an art education center. Due to damage from Hurricane Ike, the GAC is currently located at 25th and Market Street.
Today GAC has developed into the only visual arts organization in Galveston with a permanent location, rotating exhibition schedule, a full-time staff and free admission at all times. GAC provides art education outreach to various underserved populations in our community from pre-K children to the elderly.
The GAC also offers art education classes in-house and collaborates with after school programs to bring children to the center to experience viewing art in a gallery setting and creating their own work from their experiences. One collaboration produced a mural conceived and executed by teens from the St. Vincent's House Quality of Life Anti-Gang project. Another was an installation at the GAC by La Marque High School students who participated in a program with the gallery at the College of the Mainland and artists who have previously exhibited at the GAC.
Focusing on emerging through established regional artists in a variety of disciplines, the GAC produces approximately 24 innovative exhibitions each season. Over 50,000 visitors annually visit GAC exhibitions. In addition, the GAC regularly travels exhibitions to other arts spaces in the state and produces award-winning publications. With each installation the exhibiting artists are invited to speak to the public about their work on opening nights. Often, the GAC pays honoraria to installing artists and for critical essays in its catalogues.
The GAC also houses a museum shop, ArtWorks, that provides a showcase for fine crafts artists. The store manager constantly looks for new artists and actively pursues supporting working regional artists. Works are taken on commission and are sold to support both the artist and the Arts Center.
Today Hotel/Motel occupation taxes, individual donations, memberships, private foundations and corporations provide funding for the organization. The Houston Endowment, Inc., The Brown Foundation, Inc., and the Harris and Eliza Kempner Fund are a few of the private foundations who support the GAC. Government agencies such as the National Endowment for the Arts, Institute of Museum Services, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Texas Historical Commission, the Texas Commission on the Arts and the Texas Committee for the Humanities also contribute to GAC programs. The GAC would not exist today if it were not for the generous gifts of time and enthusiasm from its many volunteers.