story Joshua Baethge | photos Kathy Tran
Despite facing countless challenges over the past two pandemic-tainted years, the ArtsCentre of Plano remains steadfast in its mission to bring art to the masses.
Executive Director Suzy Jones has seen a little of everything during her time there. When she began 17 years ago, the Centre was located in a building on 15th Street in the heart of downtown Plano. While the location was great, it was also much too expensive for a nonprofit to own long-term.
That motivated a move to the historic Olney Davis House at the intersection of 18th Street and H Avenue. The home may have been a beautiful setting for art, but it left the Centre cut off from the happenings in the central business district.
Then city officials approached the Centre about moving to the historic Saigling House on the north side of Haggard Park. It proved to be a win-win for both sides. Plano officials wanted to restore the house but prevent it from becoming a business that wouldn’t fit in the downtown park. The ArtCentre got to move to a beautiful space right in the middle of town. After extensive remodeling, the ArtCentre moved into its current space in 2017.
“I love this area. I think it speaks to the history of Plano and the quaintness of how it used to be, but we also have nice restaurants and apartments to live in,” Jones says. “It has so much character.”
Of course, a lot changed in three years. In March 2020, the ArtCentre did what most of the country had to do: go home until they better understood the battle they were up against. While administrative work could be done from home, Jones quickly recognized that really can’t have an art center from home.
“We realized that the most important thing was to find a way to be relevant and stay relevant in the community,” she says.
Social media efforts were ramped up. The Centre filmed the changing of exhibits. Jones or the artists on display regularly answered questions online.
“We did that so that people didn’t feel like we were just gone,” she says. “We didn’t want to disappear. Music, art and performances were going to be even more important after an absence.”
After a few months, the gallery re-opened on a limited basis. Still, revenue from events came to a halt due to gathering restrictions and the public’s general wariness of going out. Despite the challenges, the Centre managed to make ends meet with the help of PPP loans, donor support,and support from the city.
Now that those days seem to be in the rearview mirror, the ArtCentre is moving full speed ahead with a full schedule of exhibitions planned for 2022.
Currently, there are two exhibits on the display. In honor of Black History Month, an exhibit from artist Abi Salami is currently being featured. It’s a brilliant display of brightly colored works that are nearly impossible to overlook.
While the exhibit may coincide with Black History Month, Jones is quick to point out that the Centre strives for diversity all the time. That’s not just limited to skin color but also artistic mediums, age, gender, religion and other factors.
Upcoming events for this year include the works of high school AP Art students this spring as well as the annual Plano Art Association group show at the end of the year.
This month, there are also works from the Toyota-sponsored dream car contest. Kids between the ages of 4 and 15 are encouraged to create their dream cars on paper. The ultimate contest winner gets a trip to Tokyo.
The Centre typically features the works of artists with ties to North Texas. Usually there is only one exhibit on display at a time, be it one artist or one central theme. Exhibitions are planned more than a year in advance. Sometimes Centre representatives find art that they want to feature. Other times, artists are asked to create new works. The goal is to present an eclectic mix of art and styles that keeps the community engaged.
“If you see the same old things, that’s not fun,” Jones says. “We want it to be fun and interesting.”
In addition to exhibits, the ArtCentre hosts events, including many weddings in its outdoor gazebo. The Centre also offers educational opportunities, including a summer program for underserved kids.
Still, despite so much going on there, Jones regularly meets people who have only recently “discovered” the ArtsCentre. She hopes that more people coming into the downtown area will mean more people discovering the unique art space.
“We’re really careful about what we show people because we want people to trust that what we show them is important to look at and be considered,” she says. “It’s a space for people who love art and collect art, as well as those who are artists themselves, to be inspired.”ArtsCentre of Plano