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Kendall Curlee

BLUE STAR ART SPACE. The Blue Star Art Space, a nonprofit, noncollecting institution dedicated to exhibiting contemporary art, is in a 137,000-square-foot complex of old warehouses at 116 Blue Star, on the southern edge of downtown San Antonio. The Blue Star Art Space, characterized in national art publications as a "galvanizing force" for San Antonio's art community, was founded in 1986 by a group of artists and businessmen. The Blue Star project began in a climate unfriendly to contemporary art: three galleries devoted to modern art had just closed, leaving San Antonio artists no place to show their work. Artists Jeffrey Moore, Richard Thompson, Kent Rush, Richard Mogas, Adair Sutherland, and Lewis Tarver subsequently teamed up with a group of businessmen to establish an organization called Contemporary Art for San Antonio, which succeeded in raising $40,000. Developers Hap Veltman and Bernard Lifshutz donated the use of a 12,000-square-foot space in an empty warehouse complex they had bought for an arts community. The first Blue Star exhibition opened on July 1, 1986, featuring fifty-six works by twenty-seven local artists, both unknowns and established artists such as Richard Thompson, James Cobb, and John Tweddle. The exhibition drew over 3,500 visitors during the following month and has since become an annual event.

The first exhibition was followed by a number of such successful shows as Dead Days '86, organized to coincide with the November 1 Día de los Muertos celebration. Curated by University of Texas at San Antonio graduate student Maureen O'Malley, the exhibition featured over 200 works on the theme of death by Texas artists Sharon Kopriva, Earl Staley, Benito Huerta, and others, as well as New York artists Sue Coe, Alex Grey, and Robert Morris. Blue Star has also organized solo exhibitions and hosted shows planned by other alternative exhibition venues, such as Sculpture: The Spectrum organized by the Lawndale Art and Performance Center in Houston.

The Blue Star Art Space presents six exhibitions a year and is run by a board of thirty artists and art professionals. Blue Star was run by volunteers until November 1988, when director Jeffrey Moore and an assistant, Heather Edwards, were hired to coordinate programming, publicity, and fund-raising efforts. Blue Star has received funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Texas Commission on the Arts, the city of San Antonio, and numerous private foundations and donors. The Brown Foundation and and H-E-B make substantial annual contributions to Blue Star's operating budget, which was $200,000 in 1991. Lifshutz has continued to provide rent-free space for the center.

Within two years after Blue Star opened, a thriving arts community had developed in the warehouse complex, which housed over two dozen artists' studios and living quarters, a conservation center for works on paper, architects' offices, two theatrical companies, and a multimedia space called the Filmhaus. Two other galleries settled in the Blue Star project: Blue Collar Gallery, codirected by artists Holly Moe and Gary Schafter, featured work by young artists who work with challenging concepts and styles; and Locus Gallery, run by Ralph G. Mendez, exhibited work by contemporary artists from around the country. By 1991 the complex had entered into a period of transition. Renovations to add forty-six living and working units for artists forced the Filmhaus and both galleries to close and other groups to relocate.

The Blue Star complex has drawn a diverse group of artists, working in styles that range from Beth Eidelberg's traditional watercolors to Holly Moe's drawings, executed with cigarette and gunpowder burns on low-pile carpet. Artists closely involved with Blue Star Art Space include the sculptors Gail Kline, Stephen Daly, and Ken Little; painter James Cobb; and painter and printmaker Anita Valencia. Blue Star and its various satellites have prompted interaction between artists and art professionals from such institutions as the San Antonio Art Institute, the San Antonio Museum Association, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and the Southwest Crafts Center, thus fostering a more fertile environment for contemporary art in San Antonio.


Jamey Gambrell, "Texas: State of the Art," Art in America 75 (March 1987). Katherine Gregor, "Shaking Things Up," ARTnews, January 1988. New York Times, December 20, 1987.

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Kendall Curlee, "BLUE STAR ART SPACE," accessed May 25, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/klblr.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on April 22, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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