The recently rebranded Contemporary at Blue Star has started 2023 with a $500,000 grant from the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, a notable supporter of the arts in San Antonio.

According to a news release, the grant counts as the largest financial contribution in the contemporary art center’s 36-year history.

Executive Director Mary Heathcott said the sizeable grant shows that the foundation is “committed to wanting to really help us move the needle in a big way, with the idea that they’re making a major investment that hopefully will lead to transformational growth.”

The Contemporary began in 1986 to provide an exhibition venue for San Antonio artists and has since grown to feature an international exhibitions program, an annual Berlin residency program for local artists and arts education programming for students from kindergarten through high school.

The Kronkosky Foundation has consistently supported the art center’s education programming, Heathcott said, but the new funds will help the institution move forward on renovations to its neighboring MOSAIC Student Artist Program studio and gallery, home of the Contemporary’s tuition-free after-school visual arts program for area high school students.

The funds, disbursed over a two-year period, will also allow the Contemporary to hire for a second development position to double the capacity of its current one-person development department, Heathcott said, using the Kronkosky gift as a spur to encourage further investment in future programming.  

“The goal is that we will be able to increase more sustained support for the organization in the next two years to really take us to new places,” she said.

The Kronkosky Foundation’s key program areas for philanthropic funding are health and human services and arts and culture. The Contemporary grant will serve both areas, said Managing Partner J. Tullos Wells. 

Programming at the Contemporary is “not just art for art’s sake. It’s a social services organization,” said Wells. “When we give that much money, we have high expectations [that] relate to making sure everybody in this community has access.”

Wells highlighted foundation research that shows students involved in the arts outperform those without such involvement. A 2022 research briefing states, “researchers have found that learning in the arts engages and nurtures numerous cognitive capacities, including focused perception, problem solving, collaboration, and creative thinking.”

Wells praised the Contemporary’s educational commitment. “They’ve got a good track record. So this is a pretty easy decision for us,” he said.

The next Contemporary exhibition is Songs of Resilience from the Tapestry of Faith by South Korea-born, Houston-based artist JooYoung Choi, opening Feb. 3. Admission to all exhibitions is free.

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Nicholas Frank

Senior Reporter Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with...