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An Art Lover's Guide to Downtown

By: Richard Varr | Tuesday, January 03, 2017

What comes to mind when you think of Galveston? Most visitors might say sand, surf and seafood; or maybe boating and jet skiing. Shopping along the Strand, or maybe walking the Seawall. But it may surprise you to learn that enhancing the views of the public areas and neighborhood streets is art – paintings, statues, sculptures, building architecture and more.

The heart of the city, the Strand District, is home to not only street art but also sculptures in squares and parks. A giant chessboard dominates Saengerfest Park at 23rd Street and the Strand. Designed in 1994, the walk-on chessboard is painted on concrete and has imported chess pieces. Also in the park is the rounded Compass Rose, a terrazzo representation of a nautical compass. Just across the street, meanwhile, lies the giant sculpture of the bugle-like cornet made of white concrete over a steel skeleton. Commissioned in 1983, it served as a stage prop at the New Orleans World's Fair before being placed in Galveston in 1986.

In and around the downtown lie several so-called Rosenberg fountains, first commissioned in 1898 for the “Citizens of Galveston” by Henry Rosenberg, a Swiss-born Galveston banker and philanthropist. Now restored, the decorative stone fountains were used to supply drinking water for residents and their horses and pets. Only seven of the original 17 remain today. They include the centerpiece Library Fountain at 24th and Ball; the rounded pool-like fountain at 21st and Postoffice; two columned-fountains at 12th and Ball, and 15th and Ball; and the slab-like fountains at 21st and Ball, and at 31st and Seawall Boulevard.

A Statue of Henry Rosenberg, a life-size likeness of the philanthropist seated, can be seen at the entrance to the Rosenberg Library, at 23rd and Sealy. The bronze artwork was dedicated in 1906. Other striking statues along Galveston streets include The Flower, a statue of a girl holding a flower, located at 2211 22nd Street. Two of the island’s most impressive statues include Victory, the 1898, 22-foot high bronze monument honoring the heroes of Texas Independence at 25th and Broadway; and the Woodmen of the World Memorial at 3015 27th street honoring the members of that organization that were lost during the Great Storm of 1900. Dignified Resignation, located at 722 21st Street, is a 1912 bronze sculpture depicting a Confederate soldier after defeat.

Paintings and sculptures are the highlights during ArtWalk events held in galleries and non-profit arts spaces, scheduled every six to eight weeks on Saturday nights in the historic district. One of the Galveston Arts Center's largest programs, the event attracts between 1,000 to 3,000 visitors per evening. Future ArtWalk dates for 2017 include January 14, March 4, April 22, June 3 and July 15.

Galveston’s popular Tree Sculptures can be seen in and around the historic district and surrounding neighborhoods. Carved from the trunks of trees killed from the saltwater flooding during Hurricane Ike in 2008, the artworks include herons, a Great Dane straddling a fence, a dolphin, owl, glamorous mermaid and even the Tin Man and Toto.

Other creative statues and artworks are located along the Seawall, including the bronze 1900 Storm Memorial and the fiberglass Beach Break Shark, respectively, at 48th and 24th and Seawall. Dolphins, a bronze statue commissioned in 1975, sits along 47th and Seawall.

Regarding performing arts, the Texas Legislature designated The Grand as the “Official Opera House of the State of Texas” in 1993. It’s considered one of the finest surviving 19th-century theaters in the country, still hosting performances including theater, musicals, stand-up comedy and live bands.

Article written by Richard Varr

Richard Varr is a well-rounded freelance writer with more than 25 years writing experience. A member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), he specializes in travel, feature and business writing and is the author (main contributor) of the Dorling Kindersley EYEWITNESS TRAVEL GUIDE TO PHILADELPHIA AND THE PENNSYLVANIA DUTCH COUNTRY. Richard currently lives in Houston and contributes to a variety of magazines and websites, with particular focus on highlighting destinations for cruise and RV publications. Visit his own blog at varrtravel.wordpress.com.