By Gaige Davila
Editor’s note: This feature appeared in the November 2020 issue of the Parade magazine. All photos are courtesy of ABISPI.
A global, viral pandemic did nothing to stop South Padre Island’s art scene from flourishing, almost a year after South Padre Island’s Art Business Incubator (ABI-SPI, pronounced “abbey”) opened its doors.
The city’s Economic Development Corporation created the art gallery, studio and retail space at 6801 Padre Blvd to establish South Padre Island’s art scene, helping selected artists launch their art businesses and sustain them. To South Padre Island, establishing an art scene can attract visitors year round, in a city whose tourism slows after Labor Day.
Nearly a year since their opening in November, ABISPI’s current class of resident artists are still creating, even after the COVID-19 pandemic closed the gallery’s doors between March and August.
ABI-SPI Executive Director Alexa Ray says, even with opening just before COVID-19 reached the States, business is good, and it’s a sign that South Padre Island, its city government and residents, is embracing its artists.
“With any new business it’s going to take a while for people to realize that we’re here, especially with the tourists and the visitors,” Ray said. “In the very least, the fact that we’re offering this opportunity to aspiring artists is (showing) the Island’s doing something.”
ABI-SPI’s artists–Chelsea Fedigan, Kathy Schwarz, Sarah Truman and Andres Aceves–are continuing to create, as ABISPI’s walls and shelves continue filling with their works. On any day, you can find Aceves molding ceramics just beyond the front window, or Fedigan putting the finishing touches on her signature dog portraits.
This accessibility to the artists was intentional, Ray said, for artists to develop relationships with potential clients within the same space their art is created. ABI-SPI, as a space, provides artists barrierless marketing, as artists can accompany potential clients from inception to purchase of commissioned or already-made works.
But ABI-SPI’s accessibility doesn’t end with its artists. Visitors can create art of their own through ABI-SPI’s open painting table, where guests can purchase small and medium sized canvases to paint on with all supplies provided by ABI-SPI.
Ray’s role, like many administrators in COVID-19, has shifted more to the guiding she already was doing, focusing on the artists’ having a good experience during their residency as COVID-19 disrupts life locally.
The artists are encouraged to create art at every price range as another aspect of their business model, whether that’s original canvases, prints, sculptures or stickers. Artists experiment with different mediums and themes while also making art that is selling regularly, Ray said, speaking on her role as a guide for the resident artists, encouraging them to create what sells.
The future is still ahead for ABI-SPI. For their anniversary in November, ABISPI is hosting their 1st annual ABI Art Fest & Artisan Market. ABISPI’s artists, along with several local artists from the lower, mid and upper valley, will be selling their art. Join ABI Art Fest on Nov. 14, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
ABISPI’s new class is set to hold residency by March 2021, with some already applying for next year’s spots.
ABISPI is open daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 2500 Padre Blvd. Suite 1. For more information, call (956) 433-8097.