Rockport coasts right along as arts destination.

As a coastal community, it’s no surprise that Rockport, Texas, boasts plenty of birding, boating and fishing activities. But not every coastal community can boast the kind of vibrant—and lucrative—arts scene that Rockport has nurtured.

Here’s a sampling of the community’s arts assets:

  • Downtown Rockport is home to more than 15 art galleries.
  • More than 300 artists live in the area, including well-known artists Kay Barnebey, Al Barnes, Herb Booth, Kay Barnebey, Jesús Moroles, Steve Russell and Kent Ullberg.
  • Several arts-related events, most notably the annual Rockport Art Festival, attract thousands of tourists to Rockport each year.
  • Even events that aren’t arts-focused, such as the HummerBird Celebration and Rockport Seafair, incorporate arts elements.

So prominent is the arts sector in Rockport that the Gulf Coast town of more than 7,300 – south of Victoria and northeast of Corpus Christi – was recognized in 2009 by Coastal Living magazine as one of the Top 10 Coastal Art Colonies in the country.

In modern-day Aransas County, arts and cultural tourism helped support $33.1 million in economic activity in 2009, nearly $9.7 million in earnings and about 455 jobs. In addition, cultural arts tourism generated $640,000 in local tax revenue and $1.8 million in state tax revenue in 2009.

Roughly one-third of tourists in the Rockport-Fulton area participate in arts and cultural activities, compared with the state average of 10 percent.

The Rockport Art Festival, founded in 1969, alone triggered almost $2.5 million in economic activity by out-of-towners in 2009 on items such as tickets, food, lodging and shopping, with the festival accounting for more than $600,000 in earnings and an estimated 28 full-time jobs. More than 60 percent of the 7,400-plus festivalgoers in 2009 came from outside the Rockport area. The 2009 version of the festival pulled in more than 100 artists.

While the Rockport Art Festival ranks as one of the town’s premier tourist draws, the Rockport Center for the Arts—which has been in its current location since 1983—is the community’s cultural catalyst. More than 25,000 people visit the nonprofit center each year.

View Rockport’s case study. Or see the full “Art of Economic Development” economic report.

Aside from the Art Festival and the Center for the Arts, what propels the arts sector in Rockport? Some of Rockport’s keys to arts success include:

  • Establishing a game plan that includes marketing initiatives and a budget that allows room for growth.
  • Cultivating a strong base of volunteers.
  • Fostering collaboration between the arts center and the local galleries.
  • Clustering arts and cultural facilities in close proximity to each other and to the waterfront.
  • Communicating with residents about how public funding is spent on the arts, including a 15 percent cut of the local hotel-motel tax.
  • Treating outdoor recreation as a complement to, rather than a competitor of, the cultural arts sector.

Special thanks to:

We would also like to thank:

  • Nancy and Tom Callan
  • Barbara Conitz
  • Susan Forrest
  • Mary Frazier
  • Donna Gordon
  • Caroline Jackson
  • Carol Koutnik
  • John Martell
  • Gabriel Mendez
  • Hilario Moroles
  • Renie Patty