Chicken Farm? Art Center? Yeah I know but remember this is Texas and hear me out. Though I usually write about The Good Life In Austin Texas, there are many places, events and attractions near our city that are NOT TO BE MISSED. A little over three hours drive north west from Austin near the heart of Texas lies the community of San Angelo, Texas. Some interesting tidbits about the town include: the largest city under 100,000 population NOT located on an Interstate Highway, being my home town (38 years ago), location of historical Fort Concho and a surprisingly robust art community that includes the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts and the Chicken Farm Art Center. To give you an idea of just how relevant the art community is in San Angelo, I have attended exhibits there that were available in limited release. I know this must sound strange but here is an example, a recent show was only offered for preview in New York, San Francisco and...San Angelo?!?
The Chicken Farm Art Center is the brainchild of one of my closest friends and teachers; sculptor, potter, and multi talented Artist Roger Allen. After teaching art for a few years in the 1970's (yeah I know it's dating us but history is important) Roger found an abandoned Chicken Farm and processing plant on the north side of San Angelo consisting of 8 buildings on 3 acres of land that was perfect, well at least cheap enough to move and expand his art studio and establish a compound where artists in all media could live and work. I know what you are thinking, an artist's compound in the middle of West Texas? But for some wonderfully weird and creative reasons, San Angelo was indeed the perfect place for such an idea to take hold and flourish!
The Chicken Farm Art Center has now grown to be one of West Texas’ premier attractions and is home to two galleries, 15 studios, Jerry & Susan Warnell's bed-and-breakfast and Silo House restaurant (literally built in a space that was formerly 2 grain silos) that offers a five course meal of fine dining with a casual ambiance. Roger Allen & Pam Bladine now oversee The Starkeeper Gallery and studio featuring Roger's ceramics and there are also 18 resident artists (Chicken Farmers) working in all sorts of disciplines including painting, photography, copper wall sculptures, stone sculptures, mosaics, batiks, glass, fiber art work and creative and vintage clothing. Please don't confuse this with craft fairs or similar ilk as these are true artists creating some of the finest work you can find!
Beginning today, The Chicken Farm Art Center will hold their annual open house for the three days after Thanksgiving and celebrating their 40th Anniversary! People from all over the country will be attending this event that features all of the artists in residence as well as numerous visiting artists who will be displaying their work, as well as hold workshops in many artistic disciplines. Also on tap with be a continuous series of music featuring 18 separate bands and a daily gathering of the Chicken Farm Pickers from 9:30-4:00 each day. This will be an excellent time to shop for the holidays in a completely different atmosphere from the insanity of malls or the sterile nature of online shopping. If you have even glanced at a TV lately, you have heard of supporting local small businesses this holiday season so this is your chance! Though I no longer live in San Angelo, I always stop and (usually stay with Roger) when I am in San Angelo and I am always pleasantly surprised at the incredible hub of creative activity that is going on at the Chicken Farm Art Center. Do yourself a favor if you are in the area (at any time of the year) or even within a few hours' drive and make the trip. I guarantee it will be well worth it!
This post is also in rememberance of Roger's oldest friend, fellow Artist and Teacher Jim Henderson.