UHV News

UHV News

UHV to host book-signing event for book about Rockport-Fulton art colony

Kay Betz and Vickie Merchant
Kay Betz, left, and Vickie Merchant pose with books they have co-authored about local culture in Rockport. Betz and Merchant recently co-authored the book, “The Story of the Rockport-Fulton Art Colony – How a Coastal Town Became an Art Enclave.”

Art enthusiasts will have the opportunity this month to meet the authors of a new book celebrating the history and significance of the Rockport-Fulton art colony and meet the cover artist during a book-signing event hosted by the University of Houston-Victoria.

Authors Kay Betz and Vickie Merchant, along with nationally recognized artist Steve Russell, who painted the cover, will be available to sign copies of “The Story of the Rockport-Fulton Art Colony – How a Coastal Town Became an Art Enclave,” and meet and greet attendees at a book signing beginning at 5 p.m. Dec. 15 at Walker Auditorium, UHV University North, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St. Remarks will begin at 5:45 p.m., and books will be available for purchase for $35 in cash form only. All proceeds will be donated by the authors to benefit the History Center for Aransas County in Rockport.

Bob Glenn
Bob Glenn

The event is sponsored by UHV President Bob Glenn, his wife Laurie, and co-hosted with prominent Texas art historians and collectors William and Linda Reaves. The Reaves have worked with the Public Art of the UH System and Glenn this year to showcase several art pieces from their collection throughout the UHV campus. The Reaves also wrote the foreword for the book.

“Art is one of the most treasured aspects of the human experience, and it can remind us to enjoy nature or invite us to spend a moment in our thoughts or feelings,” UHV President Bob Glenn said. “We are proud to host this event and help spread awareness of our local Texas Gulf Coast art community, and we hope all attendees will leave feeling inspired.”

Rockport, a coastal town about an hour south of Victoria, is nationally recognized for its art community and culture and has been named a “Top 10 Coastal Art Colony” by Coastal Living Magazine.

The book documents how the coastal town went from an economy based on fishing and shrimping to a nationally recognized art community and a major spot for the visual arts, as well as the history of conservation efforts in the area. The book includes approximately 200 art images, including photographs of early artists and art festivals, wildlife photography, paintings, and prints of other works of art. Many of the photographs in the book are of wildlife as the area includes the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, an area with more than 115,000 acres of protected land that is home to a variety of wildlife and is the wintering home of the last wild flock of endangered whooping cranes, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

“We wanted to create a book not just for art lovers, but people who like history and conservationists as well,” said Kay Betz, one of the authors of the book. “Going through the book is like visiting the coast.”

Both Betz and Vickie Merchant became volunteers after they both retired for history, art and cultural organizations in the Rockport area. Betz is the former director of training and organizational development at the University of Texas at Austin, while Merchant served as the coordinator of the Teacher Induction Program at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. This is the third book about the Rockport-Fulton area that the two have co-authored. They have also written two books about the local culture – “Foodways: The Culinary Traditions of Aransas County” and “The ABCs of the Rockport-Fulton Art Colony: Artists and Their Inspiration.”

The two conducted research for the book for five years, and the writing and editing process also took a couple of years. They interviewed about 150 people for the book, including dozens of artists and family members of original Rockport artists who have died. The interviews took place across the state, and about 100 people were interviewed in person, and some interviews were filmed for oral history, Betz said.

During the event, there will also be a discussion of the longtime connections between Rockport and Victoria art institutions. Simon Michael, the founder of the art colony, taught art throughout South Texas, including in Victoria beginning in the 1940s, along with his most famous student, Dalhart Windberg. Steve Russell is a legendary artist, mentor and teacher throughout the Texas Gulf Coast, nationally recognized for his evocative landscapes, several of which are featured in the book.

“The Story of the Rockport-Fulton Art Colony: How a Coastal Town Became an Art Enclave,” is published by Texas A&M University Press. The book is available to purchase at www.tamupress.com and Amazon.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 50 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.