Repairs for local art museum in doubt

Published 5:39 pm Friday, February 9, 2018

By Lorenzo Salinas


The Texas Artist Museum Society or TAMS has seen better days.

Like many places in Port Arthur, it sustained significant flood damage — about two to three feet of water throughout the entire building. Like several other places, TAMS has also had to deal with a notable lack of funds for its recovery.

As it stands, an institution that had once served as a showcase for local and upcoming artists now sits unused and waiting for assistance from anyone at its location on Cultural Center Drive.

“We still need repairs. We still must have our walls and floors replaced,” Nadine Kebodeaux, president of TAMS board of directors, said.

Operation Blessing, a nonprofit humanitarian organization, performed the demolition work for TAMS and gutted the floors and sheetrock for them. But then the lengthy process for rebuilding would have had to come next — something for which Kebodeaux said they did not have the money.

“Operation Blessing gave us an estimate to get repairs — it came out to about $85,000… We don’t have that kind of money.”

Kebodeaux explained that without any funds to hire contractors, TAMS is left hoping Operation Blessing comes back to the area to help with the rebuilding process.

“We’re waiting and praying that they come back,” Kebodeaux said. “At this point, we’re just closed.”

Kebodeaux said the city gave them a small amount of money to provide programs for the community; but, that was dedicated money for programs and it would only have been a “drop in the bucket” for what TAMS needed.

“We applied for two grants. One we didn’t get; but Southeast Texas Foundation is considering our other one,” Kebodeaux said.

TAMS received an additional grant from the Texas Commission for Arts; though, it was much lower than what they had asked for — only $5,000 out of a $40,000 request for aid.

“We still don’t have money to pay for repairs,” Kebodeaux said. “We did apply to FEMA, but they haven’t been able to help us. We’re basically in limbo right now.”

Cultural Center Drive and the 4600 block of Ninth Avenue seemed to be some of the hardest hit, as buildings like the Robert “Bob” Bowers Civic Center and the Port Arthur Public Library are in similar states of disrepair where the rebuilding process has not even begun yet.

“We were fortunate that our building was metal-constructed,” Kebodeaux said. “At least, that’s what I’m told.”

According to Kebodeaux, getting the museum back up and running would mean more than just getting new walls and floors; it would also mean getting back a cultural touchstone for the Port Arthur community.

“I hope it comes back,” Kebodeaux said of TAMS. “A lot of people don’t think the arts are important but they are. It creates community; it brings people together; it provides pleasure for them to come and view the art.”

TAMS had summer programs such as a children’s initiative during July where they encouraged interest in the arts in young people. The building had also served as a popular venue for weddings, receptions and other types of gatherings.

TAMS lost a lot of its permanent art collection during the flood. According to Kebodeaux, many of those pieces were from artists who had organized the society in its original days.

“I’m hoping we could find some benefactors to help,” Kebodeaux said. “‘Come on board.’ I told them we would see them through all this.”

TAMS is accepting donations of any amount through their website at: