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Texas Artists Museum: We should all care — and act

A first glance at the Texas Artists Museum might spark some divergent feelings, even among its enthusiasts.

The building, ravaged by Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey, had a long way to travel to reopen. It has a long way to travel still, almost two years later.

With roots back to the 1970s, the institution has played an important role in unifying the local arts community, insomuch as artists can be unified. By nature, the best of them take their own paths.

But artists, too, no matter their individualism, oftentimes need the solace of a home, of one another’s company, of a place to share or sell their work.

Board members and volunteers have been working to shape up the building enough to host an event — a reunion — at month’s end. There are never enough willing hands. As much as people love the arts on a superficial or even a casual level, arts communities and institutions demand commitment — steady income and elbow grease — to thrive. This museum is no different.

It also needs an infusion of energy — oftentimes, people read that to mean youth — but young people are not necessarily joiners. Ask churches, civic groups and PTOs about that. Within arts groups or institutions, too much work rests on the shoulders of too few “regulars.”

That need for help was keenly felt in Harvey’s wake, when several feet of water flooded the museum, located near Bowers Civic Center, Port Arthur Public Library and the Port Arthur ISD offices, damaging the facility. Members themselves suffered personally from the storm.

Some donations to TAM have helped bring the building back; more is needed. A memorandum of understanding with the city, which owns the facility, might help maintain the building and grounds. But the building needs paint and tables and chairs and more. It needs a new ceiling and lights — someday.

Mark Nesmith and Pam Trosclair, TAM board members, were among those toiling last week to clean the building and make it ready for the public. Too few hands make heavy work. They are seeking small steps: participation by art teachers, activities for students. That’s a start.

Despite tall challenges, though, TAM enthusiasts might see some opportunity. While city leaders have some interest in helping, the group needs guidance, too.

Is there a new way, a new model to revive the museum? Could the museum seek outside direction or assistance from other museums, from academics, from business leaders? Could the museum become a project for a business school or a university graduate program or even an executive MBA class?

Let’s start from this standpoint: The arts have value, breathe life into communities. Museums can stand as sources of community pride. We should all care — and act — at least a little.