Painter and muralist Vincent Valdez stands beside one of his stunning works of art. Courtesy photo.
Painter and muralist Vincent Valdez stands beside one of his stunning works of art. Courtesy photo.
Melanie Robinson Profile

Eat, drink, buy: Red Dot elevates artist profiles while enhancing the Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum’s balance sheet.

The annual fundraiser supports contemporary artists while cultivating patronage in the community, explained Blue Star President and Executive Director Bill FitzGibbons.

This Wednesday visiting and local artists are invited to display a single work, while patrons are offered the chance to bid on collectible paintings, drawings, photographs and sculptures while hanging with the artists, patrons and a crowd of local elites.

Local legend Vincent Valdez serves as honorary artist, while honorary patrons include George and Sally Muellich. Jeff Balfour of Citrus in Hotel Valencia and Kevin Williams of Ranch 616 restaurant in Austin will prepare munchies. Bird Bakery is supplying cupcakes for dessert.

The circus is this year’s thematic element, according to Red Dot Chair Kristin Wiese Hefty, “The décor revolves around the idea of great feats of art.”

2011's Red Dot decorum. Photo by Justin Parr.
2011’s Red Dot decorum. Photo by Justin Parr.

Wednesday’s event will be the 23rd Red Dot and the last that FitzGibbons oversees as president and executive director. FitzGibbons, an accomplished  San Antonio artist and sculptor whose growing success and new-found opportunities here and outside the city led to his recent decision to step down earlier this month, officially concludes his 11-year tenure on June 15.

Bill FitzGibbons. Courtesy photo.
Bill FitzGibbons. Courtesy photo.

“Thankfully my sculpture career has really taken off in the last few months. My main focus will now be my career as an artist. However, I look forward to my continued involvement with Blue Star as director of special projects,” FitzGibbons said.

The process of choosing artists for the renowned event is a curatorial one involving both collectors and Blue Star’s exhibition committee. Both professional and emerging artists are chosen to exhibit their work, and the honorary artist is given a solo exhibition.

“We have works from artists around the world this year including Miami, London and New York, but about eighty percent are local artists and only maybe five percent are outside of Texas,” FitzGibbons said.

He explained that the event provides a visual comparison of local and international artists – giving the show important context and presenting the works of San Antonio artists as both unique and equal to peers from other markets.

This year’s featured artist, Vincent Valdez, is “one of the most established young artists at San Antonio and has powerful impact within the community,” FitzGibbons said. Born and raised on the Southside, Valdez worked on his first mural at the age of 10 alongside long-time Blue-Star supporter and artist Alex Rubio. Rubio took him under his wing and by the age of 14 Valdez was working as a paid muralist around the city.

Painter and muralist Vincent Valdez stands beside one of his stunning works of art. Courtesy photo.
Painter and muralist Vincent Valdez. Courtesy photo.

Valdez graduated with a BFA from The Rhode Island School of Design in 2000 and was later the youngest artist to have a solo exhibition at the McNay Art Museum. While his talent is displayed through a variety of media, Valdez’s work is characterized by a fighting motif illustrating the struggles of everyday existence.

Tickets to the event are $150 per individual and $275 per couple. Organizers have introduced “30 under 30” tickets this year which are available to a select group younger than 30. Those tickets are priced at $75 per individual or $125 per couple.

While this pricing may be reasonable for a fundraising event, especially given the additional “30 under 30 category,” the base price for any of the pieces is inaccessible for the majority of young professionals. All of the artwork displayed must have a retail value of no less than $950. The exception to this rule is the Emerging Artists Wall, on which 15 emerging artists are invited to display their work. The minimum retail value of these pieces is $450.

Perhaps I am resentful that these works are completely beyond my budget, but given the door cost, I feel the base price of the art should be lowered if inclusion of younger patrons is a goal of the event.

Titled "island," this photo by Peter French will be on display during this year's event. Photo courtesy of Peter French.
Titled “island,” this photo by Peter French will be on display during this year’s event. Photo courtesy of Peter French.

Artists, however, might feel otherwise. Half of the purchase price goes to the artist, and the other half to the Blue Star. Over the years, the Red Dot fundraiser has raised critical funding for both operations and exhibitions, MOSAIC educational programming, lectures, workshops and family activities.

Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum was established in 1986 as an artist-run venue in a city that lacked exhibition space and arts institutions willing to take chances. Created to foster the growth of San Antonio artists, Blue Star has since added educational programming and outreach to its repertoire, seeking to nurture both the art community and the community at large.

“(Over the past decade), along with the Board we have economically stabilized the organization, received national and international attention, exhibited hundreds of artists and through our fundraisers we have returned over half a million dollars back to San Antonio artists,” FitzGibbons said.

The Mosaic Of Student Artists In Community (MOSAIC) program, developed under FitzGibbons’ and Rubio’s leadership, provides mentoring and art enrichment to youth, adults and elders and inspires creativity throughout all areas of the city. It exposes students to drawing, painting and other fundamental visual art techniques.

The essential question is whether the exposure is a fair trade for half of the proceeds.

“The artist is obviously agreeing to give half their proceeds to Blue Star because they believe in the direction of the organization,” said Michelle Yetman, an arts patron and one-time event volunteer. “The event supports Blue Star while Blue Star supports them. The only way to improve and progress our community is to support one other.”

Gilbert De Hoyos and Lauren Tarin enjoying the festivities at the 2012 event.
Gilbert De Hoyos and Lauren Tarin enjoying the festivities at the 2012 event. Courtesy photo.

Red Dot has become a can’t-miss tradition in San Antonio, eagerly anticipated by artists and collectors alike. Collectors and patrons meet the artists behind the work. Relationships are formed that last far beyond a single important night in the world of visual arts.

Red Dot has given back more than $500,000 to local artists and raised equal sums to support artist programming.

“I really enjoyed co-chairing the event this year,” said Hefty. “There are constantly new vibrant people making this organization a vibrant one. Art is what survives, and it is amazing that so many individuals want to contribute and support to keep it relevant.”

Melanie Robinson graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English with a Concentration in Professional Writing and a minor in Anthropology from the University of Texas at San Antonio in December 2011. Her current Marketing position at the local nonprofit organization ARTS San Antonio has afforded her the opportunity to further explore her love of the arts. She now spends her nights among local musicians, artists and poets – finding beauty in self-expression. You can contact Melanie through her Facebook.

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Melanie Robinson

Melanie Robinson is a San Antonian writer, poet and musician who currently works as the content writer for Tribu, a digital marketing firm, and freelances for the Rivard Report, San Antonio Current and...