f asked where the most distinctive art in Texas is to be found, some might point to Marfa, the now tony enclave for creatives in the Big Bend region that grew legendary after minimalist Donald Judd created large-scale installations and other works after he moved there in the 1970s. Others might take you to Houston, where the Rothko Chapel continues to invoke “a stillness that moves.”
But the official visual arts capital, as of the June passage of a House Concurrent Resolution by the Texas Legislature in June 2021, is San Angelo, the city of 100,000 in west central Texas. Among other works, the city is home to:
- A 200-acre cultural district around a historic downtown that serves as the headquarters for the Center for the Study and Advancement of Early Texas Art;
- A highly regarded Museum of Fine Arts that hosts the largest national ceramic competition, now in its 24th year; a biannual national sculpture competition, and one of the largest plein air painting competitions in the United States.
- 100 painted sheep that were introduced to embrace the community’s history as one of the largest sheep markets in the U.S.
- One of three permanent “Don’t Mess with Texas” murals in the state, part of the “Don’t Mess with Texas” anti-littering campaign launched in 1986;
- The Art in Uncommon Places program, whose affiliate artists has placed more than 200 pieces of art in San Angelo, including Paintbrush Alley, featuring works embracing the area’s western, oil and gas heritage through art based on the movie “Giant,” which was shot in west Texas; and the Pop Art Museum, an open-air venue located in a former bowling alley;
- The new Buffalo Soldier Art Gallery, which highlights the role of the Buffalo Soldiers stationed at Fort Concho in the 1870s;
- The Concho River Walk, designated one of five Great Public Spaces on the American Planning Association’s annual Great Places in America list.
San Angelo Economic Development expects a resurgent oil and gas industry to drive employment growth. Forthcoming assets include the San Angelo Rail Park, a 180-acre on the city’s north side from South Plains & Lamesa Railroad that will serve as a multi-commodity transportation interchange. San Angelo-based shortline operator Texas Pacifico Transportation is investing $100 million phased into the rehabilitation of the South Orient Rail Line, as the area anticipates the impact of the opening of the reconstructed Presidio-Ojinaga International Rail Bridge, destroyed by fires in 2008 and 2009.