November 22, 2022 541 PM
ALPINE — Last weekend the Alpine Artwalk festival celebrated its 29th year. Local and visiting art enthusiasts turned out to show some love to area creatives, including artists and musicians, despite the biting winter weather that persisted throughout the weekend.
Vendor and music tents lined downtown Alpine streets and smoky fire pits dotted walkways. Indoor shops and galleries entertained chilly guests as they shuffled in off the street.
On Friday at Kishmish Plaza, Jalin Smith, a Sul Ross senior in the fine arts department, helped sell student artwork to Artwalk attendees. “It’s like my 500th time at Artwalk,” she said, laughing, noting it’s always a good excuse to chat with out-of-towners.
“We make pretty good money every year, which is great for starving college students,” said Smith.
Other than the artwork, the multitude of food vendors is one of the event highlights for her; her goal this year was to get a funnel cake before they sold out. Smith specializes in portraiture and has spent her time in the arts department honing her painting skills. “I’ve been doing portraiture since I was little. I always drew people. I feel like that was the easiest for me,” said Smith.
Over the years, she’s primarily painted friends and family — she finds it more familiar and rewarding to paint loved ones, she said. A large-scale portrait of her professor dressed in drag hung on the wall at Kishmish Plaza, one of her favorite paintings to date, she said. The sides of the frame were painted bright red, a nod to Louboutin red-bottom black high heeled shoes.
“I wanted it to be a red bottom feel,” Smith laughs. “I painted all my edges red because I was like, ‘We’re bougie.’”
She said she feels grateful for the camaraderie of her classmates and has enjoyed her time developing as an artist at Sul Ross. “I just got better over the years, I’ve developed more skills. But the classrooms are fun, they’re just kind of like one big family.”
It was the last Artwalk she’d be working as a Sul Ross student; she is graduating in December and plans to pursue architecture school next. “I’m sad to be leaving, but I’m ready to go,” she said.
Later that evening at the Catchlight Art Gallery on Holland Avenue, artist Liz Bartlett Culp performed a live painting demo and chatted with visitors. Catchlight is an artist co-op where around 15 artists display and sell work. Artists pay a rental fee, along with commission, to be a part of the space.
Virginia Brotherton, a jewelry maker and member of the co-op, said Artwalk was a special time of year to have their doors open to gallery visitors. “[You] see people you haven’t seen in a long time because they get out for Artwalk, but not too much else,” said Brotherton.
Catchlight Gallery’s artists span medium and subject matter, but an overall theme of appreciation for the West Texas landscape shines through. “What more beautiful place do you have than what we have?” said Brotherton, as other co-op artists nearby nodded in agreement.
Even Brotherton, who focuses her artistic practice on jewelry, not landscape painting, sources local rocks and materials. Co-op artist Martha Scott, who works in ceramics and found materials, and Brotherton said the running theme of a love for West Texas landscapes allows for many different interpretations of similar things to exist in the same space.
“We have a whole bunch of artists to look at,” said Scott. “But everybody in here has at least one thing that has prickly pears, and that’s kind of an interesting thing, I think.”
Compared to the Marfa arts scene, Scott said it feels like the Alpine arts scene is more inclusive, with a homey feel, and she likes the fact that the artists in the co-op all live and work locally.
“I think that really makes a difference, that we don’t have somebody representing us. We represent ourselves,” said Scott. “Then it’s so much more unique and it’s also right here so it’s much more appealing. It’s not like somebody’s coming here and seeing and taking pictures and then going back and painting them in New York or Germany.”
Catchlight Gallery will soon welcome its newest co-op member, Presidio-based artist Ramon Deanda. Brotherton said Deanda’s youth and sense of humor, in addition to his artworks, will be a welcome addition to their collective.
“We want someone who’s doing different stuff than what others are doing,” said Brotherton. “I really like what he’s wanting to do for Presidio.”
Deanda said he was delighted to be joining the Alpine gallery soon. “It’s pretty exciting to be part of a group of experienced artists. I hope I can learn more from them. I’m so thankful and grateful that they invited me to be part of Catchlight Gallery,” he said.
For this year’s Artwalk, Deanda was invited by Sul Ross professor Gregory Tegarden to display prints in the art bus, which he said was a new and fun experience. Plus, he said, the icy weather was simply a memorable feature of the signature event at times.
“In 2013 I showcased student artwork from Presidio Elementary in the middle of a crazy ice storm,” said Deanda. “My favorite part of Artwalk was being able to see old art friends and meeting new friends. You never know who you are going to run into.”