Around the State

Art Museum Of South Texas

Corpus Christi

LET’S BE BRUTALLY HONEST: Corpus Christi’s art scene flies well below the radar, if it leaves the ground at all. Cutting-edge installations or high-profile exhibitions? Any self-respecting art snob knows to go to Houston or Dallas or Fort Worth or San Antonio. Marfa attracts more curious visitors, for goodness’ sake.

But forget the obvious for a moment. Lately this port metropolis has been striving to snag the state’s attention and attract some culturati of its own. One need only notice the recent bumper crop of civic institutions and entertainment hubs springing up: the Congressman Solomon P. Ortiz International Center in 2000, the Concrete Street Amphitheater in 2001, the American Bank Center in 2004, Whataburger Field and the Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi Performing Arts Center in 2005. Arguably the most beautifully situated city in Texas, Corpus Christi may soon be more than just the gateway to Padre Island. “We’ve had this mind-set that if something has been good all these years, it’s good enough for us,” says Corpus Christi Caller-Times columnist Nick Jimenez of his town’s inability to break out of mediocrity. “Now we’re thinking, ‘What took us so long?’”

Indeed. At the nucleus of this newfound energy is the Art Museum of South Texas, which unveils a second building—stark white like the first, and also by a big-deal architect—on October 8. It may not be the year’s most anticipated opening, but it’s an apt symbol of Corpus Christi’s resurgence—and resolve. The original Philip Johnson–designed museum made headlines when it opened in 1972, but the city’s cultural bulb dimmed in the next decades (the eighties oil bust didn’t help). Yet now the repository is in the spotlight again. And unlike the year’s other big museum project (that would be Austin’s Blanton), this one is as much about creating a pretty space as it is about showing off the permanent collection.

The first structure was a tough act to follow, much less add to. But Ricardo Legorreta, one of Mexico’s best-known architects (together with his son, Victor) has played it smart. Their work may look a lot like its predecessor (well, except for those gleaming copper pyramids on the roof), but inside it’s replete with Legorreta hallmarks—bold colors, lots of light, unusual wall placement. Plus, it

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