Arts & Culture
Will alternative art return to Blue Star?
Published: April 17, 2013
But will the gallery’s non-commercial approach jibe with rent expectations, once they’re finalized?
Three Walls and cactus bra (co-run by artists Leigh Anne Lester and Jayne Lawrence) are both known for their experimental programming, high in installation work — which long attracted foot traffic and critical praise if not substantial sales.
“I plan on doing business the same as I did before, running it as a non-commercial gallery, an artist-run space,” said Monseau. “[Lifshutz] wants to keep the artist-run spaces, and he knows that it is just a different animal, a different market. But he wants to keep the artist-run spaces in there. We’ll see, when we see the lease.”
On the other end of the commercial spectrum, even more new dining and retail spaces will soon appear at the Complex. According to Lifshutz, another restaurant is slated to open this year, and a small food market will finally open its doors, too. A project of Blue Star Brewing Co., whose owner, Joey Villarreal, told the Current that new beer laws that may soon pass in the state legislature would allow the market to sell Blue Star’s beer to go, in addition to fresh local produce, grains in bulk, and bread baked in the Blue Star Brewing Co. kitchen. Whatever the lege decides, Villarreal plans to open the market before year’s end.
A year ago, Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum was making big plans to expand in a new building — partially funded by a 2012 City bond — that was intended to be built on the Big Tex property adjacent to Blue Star, a property also owned by the Lifshutz Companies. But plans for Big Tex have changed, says Lifshutz, in order to dedicate the new development to residential housing.
Bill FitzGibbons, executive director of the museum, has gathered his board to consider their options. “We are doing a full-fledged strategic plan,” FitzGibbons told the Current. “By mid-summer, the plan should be finalized, and provide a roadmap for us. It’s everything from confirming the good things we are doing, to looking at options for building a new museum.”
Where that new facility might be — if it is built — is yet to be determined. But even if a new building is constructed, the Blue Star pioneers don’t plan on abandoning ship. “It is the board’s hope, and mine, that James [Lifshutz] will let us stay in our current building forever. But that does not preclude us from also having another facility,” FitzGibbons said, noting that the museum is seeing more, rather than fewer, visitors. “After we instituted a fee to get in, we actually saw an increase in attendance,” said FitzGibbons. “That could be a combination of things. There has been a lot of publicity for the Mission Reach,” said FitzGibbons, referring to one of Blue Star’s primary advantages, its proximity to the southern reach of the San Antonio River, also experiencing something of a renaissance.
Few artists still maintain live/work quarters at Blue Star, though their presence was once an expected component in the mix that defined the Complex. Recent increases in rent make it difficult for some artists to remain, and impossible for others.
> Email Scott Andrews