All across the Valley, from South Padre Island to Roma, venues are popping up to showcase the work of local artists. Just last year, the Art Business Incubator at South Padre Island opened to “promote arts-related businesses” and the McAllen Art Walk has been going on for over a decade.
Raquel Hinojosa is the owner of Hinovations Art Gallery, which participates in the McAllen Art Walk, held the first Friday of every month between September and May. Hinojosa has been involved in art since she was 19 and received a fine arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin.
In the years she’s had her gallery, she’s noticed people become more aware of the arts. However, she pointed out that many are still unaware of the RGV’s thriving art scene.
“We network a lot, so we invite a lot of people that don’t have any knowledge of art,” she said. “We always get, ‘I didn’t know you were here. I didn’t know any artists existed in the Valley.’ So we’re always surprised and a little sad to hear that.”
One way Hinojosa is working to spread art appreciation and awareness is through “Art on the move,” an outreach program in which Hinojosa takes pieces of art to schools in different cities. The program goes as far as Roma and Hinojosa is often invited to speak for career days.
Additionally, she teaches a variety of art classes at her studio for people of all ages and skill levels — whether an amateur or intermediate artist.
“We teach different genres and art styles so the students repeating can experience new ways of painting,” she said. “We’re doing everything from drawing with watercolors, charcoal, pencils, ink, and pens, to painting with acrylics.”
Hinovations also hosts painting birthday parties for up to 10 people.
During the art walk, attendees can take a self-guided tour through participating art studios, museums and galleries in McAllen — many of which are located at the Art District Business Center.
Hinovations is just one street away and is switching a few things up for the year 2020.
Rather than showcasing several artists work at the gallery during Art Walk, Hinojosa has decided to focus on one artist per month. She said when she puts out a “call for art” she receives submissions from all over — Harlingen, Edinburg, Mission — and even from out of the country. The mediums also vary — paintings, ceramics, sculpture, wall installations. What Hinojosa prefers to showcase is modern art.
“Our artwork is outstanding from the Valley,” she said. “It’s very innovative and progressive and modern. … Right now, we see mostly artists are being influenced by what’s going on in the Valley or what’s going on in the border.
“We have a lot of cultural work related to the region and we’re always glad to show that.”
In 2017, the Brownsville Cultural Educational Group created an art walk of their own in downtown Brownsville called “Noche de Arte.”
Noche de Arte is the third Friday of each month and has more than 14 participating galleries, studios, and venues. To keep up with the latest galleries, check out their Facebook page in which the studios also regularly post calls for art.
Likewise, Harlingen hosts an Art Night the last Friday of each month.
Hinojosa said about half of the artists she knows in the RGV are able to sustain themselves through their art, while the other half takes on other jobs. While the Art Walk is one way to promote local artists and help them sell their works, another way is through collaborations with organizations.
Hinovations recently collaborated with Yaqui Animal Rescue and had several artists paint animals from Yaqui. Once sold, half the proceeds went to the artist and the other half to the no-kill, nonprofit rescue center. Hinojosa said they try to do several collaborations a year.
“Most organizations are seeing the benefit of using art as a means to fundraise and it’s a win for everyone,” she said. “Not only do they raise funds for their organization, but the artists get more recognition and we get to create an income for them.”
Edinburg is also a big celebrator of the arts. The city’s Cultural Arts Division puts on a number of events and festivals throughout the year.
In July, the city has Fridafest to celebrate Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s legacy. The event’s mission is the “empowerment of women in all aspects” and for six years has highlighted local female artists and performers.
Noche de Arte is not the only lower Valley venue celebrating local artists. In South Padre Island, the Art Business Incubator accepts five artists into the program and provides them with studio and gallery space with, according to its website, the purpose of sustainably supporting the growth of art culture in the community.
After the year is up, the artists are to operate independently on the island.
The incubator also hosts a variety of workshops instructed by artists. A “Happy Henna” workshop is set for March and “Hibiscus Cross Painting” for April.
While the RGV art scene is steadily growing, as evidenced by numerous art festivals and galleries across the region, Hinojosa said in order for it to continue thriving and expanding, people need to support local artists.
“When people come and see artwork and purchase artwork it creates positive energy between the buyer and the artist,” Hinojosa said. “The artist feels energized and appreciated because their art is out there and they are encouraged to continue creating. We just encourage people, if even not to purchase, just go and visit art venues and support our local scene.”