Creative Incubator to move to Arts District
The McAllen Arts District on Main Street lost a venue about a year ago when the Memorial Library moved, leaving the strip of galleries, which hosted festivals and events, with a vacant building and a hole in the district until now.
Finally, the McAllen City Council decided to occupy the old library building with the McAllen Creative Incubator, a venue where artists practice their craft.
The Incubator has actually been a part of the arts community for seven years, located at 1001 South 16th St. Tucked away in a little neighborhood in the building that was once Sam Houston Elementary school, the sanctuary for the arts and entertainment is finally getting a new home in the Arts District. It’s a new home with the same goals.
Although the move-in date for the Incubator isn’t finalized, Nancy Millar, vice president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, explained that it will be “within the next few weeks.”
Millar said that the Incubator has been one of the biggest arts efforts the Chamber of Commerce has made and believes it will only be stronger in the new location.
“I know that the city of McAllen really wants to feed the art scene,” artist Ilea O’Donnell said. “They want to build it up, and moving the Incubator to that location will not only help us but them, as in building their Arts District.”
O’Donnell is one of tenants renting out a work space in the Incubator along with other artists, a band, a radio station and the producer of South Texas Golf magazine.
To be a tenant, the artists must provide samples of artwork to prove they are working artists of professional caliber. The tenants also have to pay a deposit, consent to a background check and host two events a year to keep tenantship.
The City of McAllen funded the Incubator with $75,000 for any renovations needed at the Main Street space. The radio station, 96.7 FM The City, is getting a room tailored for it. For needs of visual artists, industrial sinks and drying racks will be installed.
O’Donnell explained that tenants of the current Incubator have the most control as to what will become of the new Incubator, and are automatically tenants in the new location.
“There’s a lot of high hopes because we’re getting a lot of new equipment, bigger spaces and better spaces,” the 25-year-old said. “We’re going to be right smack in the middle of where everybody thinks the art is and all the art is found. Everybody is really excited about it.”
One of the events hosted in the Arts District is Art Walk, a festival open to the community every first Friday of the month from September through May. Becky Guerra, the creator of Art Walk, gladly welcomes the Incubator to the District.
“I think it’s going to bring exposure to all the occupants of the Incubator. A greater number of people will get to see them because of the Art Walk,” the Nuevo Santander Gallery owner said. “It’s another great example of how the Chamber of Commerce and the City of McAllen have been supportive of the art and art development in McAllen.”
Millar explained that the Convention and Visitors Bureau is responsible for bringing folks into town. She believes that the Arts District will be able to flourish with the Creative Incubator moving locations, making art more accessible, along with supporting the artists.
“The reason that we put so much attention on the arts is because we recognize that the arts help increase the quality of life for our residents, but it also increases the attractiveness of the city for visitors,” Millar said. “When we have visitors from out of town, it is helping McAllen economically.”
The Incubator’s current location has space for 12 tenants to rent out, but once moved to Main Street, the Incubator will be able to hold 14, giving more artists a chance to showcase their work.
“(The City of McAllen) is really hoping the Incubator is going to become the anchor of the Arts District, especially on your Art Walks and on your shows,” said O’Donnell, a Mission native. “We’re excited because we’ll get our own gallery spaces. We don’t have to depend on gallery people saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to what we can and cannot show.”
The Incubator celebrated its last event at the current location Dec. 14 with an exhibit of O’Donnell’s artwork. As of now, future plans for that building are not finalized, but demolition is being considered until approved by the city council, according to McAllen Deputy City Manager Brent Branham.
With the Incubator taking the place of the library, Incubator tenants and members of the City of McAllen have high expectations for the art scene.
“It’s going to be more convenient for not only the artists who will be working out of there, but also the general public who will be attending different functions there,” Millar said. “That’s really going to open up a lot of possibilities for us as far as events and just being able to do more and bigger there.”