It was a night to celebrate expression and growth as students, faculty and community members filled the opening reception of the South Texas College x McAllen Creative Incubator collaborative art exhibition. The event was recently held at the McAllen Art Walk and the exhibit features both current STC students and Rio Grande Valley community artists who started their careers at STC.
STC Visual Arts major LeeAnn Montalvor greeted and took photos with friends and family as they admired her painting, along with the dozens of pieces from the STC community. For many of the students, it was the first time their artwork has been shown in a public setting.
“It’s nerve-wracking coming here and letting people view your art, but also very exciting,” Montalvor, 23, said. “It's also very beautiful seeing everybody's different types of art styles and seeing what inspired them and their beautiful minds.”
Chris Leonard, STC Art instructor, said the featured STC alumni artists have made their mark in the art community across the country.
“This type of collaboration shows how we should be proud of the seeds that are being planted and the fruits that are now blooming creatively from New York City to Florida and in our own backyard,” Leonard said. “I sure hope many of our current students take in the show and get ready for opportunities of their own.”
The exhibition is one of the first the Art department has put together since STC returned to in-person classes, Luis Corpus, Visual Arts department chair, said.
“What better way to move forward than looking back and paying homage to those former students,” Corpus said. “When alumni move on from our classes, they go on to earn Bachelor’s of Fine Arts and pursue graduate programs. They then move into their respective fields and continue to create success. These exhibits give us the opportunity to connect our current students with those alumni.”
Corpus said providing STC students with real-world experience is a priority to the department.
“One thing we try to do is get students to form the connection with what they’re taught in the classroom to an actual event like this,” Corpus said. “I think it’s important to come in and broaden their understanding of what professional practices mean. They might come in with a technical skill set, or great conceptual ideas, but we want to help them be able to create with the understanding that these works aren’t intended to stay within the studio.”
Montalvor said she has benefited from her STC classes and has grown as an artist.
“It’s been a great experience at STC,” she said. “The professors are all amazing, and I love the way they teach and go in-depth about how to look at things from a different perspective.”
The STC Visual Arts faculty members are dedicated to engaging students within the community and reaching out to a new generation of artists.
STC art instructor Alexis Ramos said that when students see their work in a community setting, it makes professional achievement feel less daunting. She also had a piece titled “Sangre Serpenet” on display.
“The students love it,” Ramos said about the collaborative exhibition. “Showing my students where I started and bridging that gap to say, ‘Hey, it's possible to go from one level to the next level.’”
Visual Arts major Joanna Martinez, 20, said it was both her high school art teacher and her mother who inspired her interest in art. Martinez said she saw the impact her mother’s design work in her flower shop had on their community.
“I've seen her do so many decorations throughout my entire life,” Martinez said. “I think she is the very first artist I've ever admired. I wanted to do something related to art, as well. Like her.”
Zachary Arellano, 21, didn’t grow up intending to study art. He said he switched majors at STC three times before finding his place in the Visual Arts department, all because of an Art Appreciation class with Assistant Professor Scott Nichol.
“That class opened up my mind and made me want to pursue art because I was so fascinated by it,” Arellano said. “So that same semester I changed my schedule and switched into visual arts and started taking as many of the classes as I could.”
Arellano said he enjoys the challenges his classes offer and encourages others to be open to the unexpected, as well.
“Take the chance because you never know until you try it,” Arellano said. “It could spark something in you that makes you want to pursue this.”
The exhibit will be open through Sept. 29 at the McAllen Creative Incubator, 601 N. Main St. Admission is free to the public.