“Southeast Texas Arts Council,
this is Blake.”
“Hi, are you like, the art museum?”
“Negatory my friend.”
“Uh, then what are you?”
This is a common phone interaction here at the Southeast Texas Arts Council (SETAC). We get calls from all over from people about everything from event information from any one of the local organizations with “art” in their name, to folks looking for an appraisal of a painting they found in their grandma’s attic, to artists wanting to peddle their traveling exhibition. We tend to show up in search results about art and southeast Texas, so we get a lot of hits from people who aren’t quite certain what an “arts council” does.
To kick things off, we’re not a museum (unless you count the exhibit of cicada husks Sue brings in every spring and puts on my desk; I suppose the Post-It notes buried in 12 years of dust behind my computer monitor might soon count as relics as well). Neither are we an independent gallery, accredited art assessors, or general event planners (though we do plan and run a few events of our own). Thankfully, despite not being any of these things, we can generally point people in the right direction when they ask us about them because we are, simply put, an arts and humanities aid organization.
We exist primarily for artists and arts and humanities organizations. Our focus is rarely on the public at large, preferring to concentrate our efforts on magnifying the work of local artists and organizations. Consequently, though we may not be art assessors, we happen to know some art assessors because we work with such people in pursuit of our mission, which is to promote knowledge and appreciation of the arts and humanities in Jefferson, Orange, and Hardin counties by providing financial assistance, publicity, administrative resources, and advocacy to arts and humanities organizations.
Lacking a public facing mission is what generally confuses people. While our organizations know very well what we do, most gallery-goers and audience-attendees might only vaguely remember seeing our logo on a sponsor banner. In an attempt to give ourselves a more forward-facing persona we’ve begun producing our own events. From the absolutely lovely but ultimately unsustainable Montage Arts Festival to the utterly ill-fated Talent Show series, we’ve tried quite a bit and we’ve got more ideas up our sleeves. Among all those attempts, our most successful and enduring event has been the Cajun Heritage Festival.
Inaugurated in 2015 as the Carnival des Cajuns and eventually remonikered the much more straightforward Cajun Heritage Festival, our celebration of Acadian French culture has been a popular event from the start. Despite nearly drowning in the rain the first year (we held it at the outdoor pavilion in Downtown Port Arthur) people kept coming back year after year and we wisely moved the venue indoors to the Carl Parker Multipurpose Center on the Lamar State College Port Arthur campus. We’ve had several big names in Cajun music perform on stage including Jo-El Sonnier and Wayne Toups, and every year we book the best in local Cajun musicians to tear it up exile-style with accordion and fiddle. While the festival has grown over the years we aren’t done with development. In 2021 we added the Cajun Caravan to the activities to highlight historical locations and Cajun style restaurants in Port Arthur, Port Neches and Nederland. We hope to continue adding content to the festival that will deepen public appreciation of the unique culture of south Texas and Louisiana Cajuns.
Our financial support has historically taken the form of a sub-granting program which has funded dozens of organizations, artists and projects over the years. We paused this program in 2020 to pursue the founding of a cultural district in Beaumont through the Texas Commission on the Arts Cultural District Designation program. Eligibility for funding through the program requires the entity to have a budget in excess of $50,000, so SETAC used funds normally reserved for sub-granting to accomplish this. With the successful designation of the Downtown Beaumont Cultural Arts District and its subsequent success at attaining financial independence, SETAC has been able to return to its long-standing financial assistance program. This year, 15 organizations have applied for funding for various projects.
Downtown Beaumont Cultural Arts District
The establishment of DBCAD means that downtown Beaumont – already a hub of arts related organizations with half a dozen museums, multiple performance venues, parks and historic architecture – now receives dedicated state level support and funding. The various organizations within the district’s borders have access to grant opportunities only available to those inside a state designated cultural district. Furthermore, those who are outside the district can access those grants as well, provided their activity occurs inside the district. It’s an enormous boon to Beaumont as a whole!
Aimed Dance Summer Fest 2022
Off Ramp has featured Aimed Dance before (Off Ramp Spring/Summer 2020). Founded by dance instructor Amy Elizabeth, Aimed Dance seeks to bring professional talent to SETX. This year SETAC is providing funding to hire nationally recognized choreographers for the company’s Summer Fest program. The choreographers will provide master classes to participants and direct performances at the close of the festival.
Beaumont Interfaith Choral Society – “FESTIVA!”
Since 1962 the Beaumont Interfaith Choral Society (BICS) has been providing free annual concerts to the public. Supported over the decades by over 40 area churches and synagogues, BICS concerts have featured everything from Handel’s Messiah to The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass. SETAC’s assistance will be used for advertising for the November 2022 concert.
Boomtown Film & Music Festival – 2022 Silent Score Showcase
This stand-alone event is an ambitious collaboration that focuses on independent musicians composing for film. While indie cinematography has gained traction as technology makes it more accessible, it remains a niche artform and the scoring of such films nicher (that’s not a word) still. This project selects a classic silent film and splits the score among four local composers, each invited to provide their own interpretation through music. The film will then be presented as a complete work. The funds granted by SETAC will secure a copy of the film, provide the artists with a small fee, and advertise the show.
The Downtown Beaumont Cultural Arts District – Make Music Beaumont
First presented in Beaumont in 2021, Make Music Day is an international music festival which began in France in 1982. The event encourages people of all levels of skill and from every genre to participate in “making music” all over the city for one day. Held simultaneously in over 1000 cities across 120 countries, this festival has proven its broad appeal. The Downtown Beaumont Cultural Arts District is working to make Make Music Day a permanent fixture in Beaumont Culture. SETAC’s funding will help buy promotional materials and book venues and artists.
The Jonathan Williams Center for the Performing Arts JWCPA Summer Camp 2022
Every year the Jonathan Williams Center for the Performing Arts hosts a summer camp that guides students through a theater production from start to finish. They learn vocal technique, acting, movement and as of 2022, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and Financial Literacy. At the end of the camp the students produce a musical play. This year the play was Annie, Jr. SETAC’s financial assistance helped provide scholarships for students to attend.
The Art Studio, Inc.
The Art Studio, Inc. has long been an advocate of the ceramic arts in SETX (and pretty much all the other arts too, really). The Gumbo Clayfest is a four day event featuring workshops, lectures and demonstrations by respected ceramicists from all over the United States. SETAC will help secure lodging and pay travel expenses for the visiting artists and assist with facility costs during the festival.
Mexican Heritage Society – Mexican American Arts & Culture Workshop
The Mexican Heritage Society holds the Mexican Fiesta each year, an enormous festival of singing, dancing and food that celebrates the heritage of Mexico. In pursuit of preserving and showcasing culture, the organization is holding a workshop with a Mexican-American artist who will teach classes and give lectures about Mexican art. Thanks to SETAC’s help, the workshop will be offered free of charge.
Texas Artists Museum
The Texas Artists Museum’s Art Smart program has provided arts education to children in the Port Arthur area since the 1980s (the original records were lost in the flooding during Hurricane Harvey). SETAC’s assistance will pay for instructors, supplies and equipment. Geared toward children ages 6 through 12, Art Smart also offers older children a chance to participate as volunteer assistants.
Willy Carter Community Outreach Center – Port Arthur Juneteenth 2022
The Port Arthur Juneteenth celebration includes activities at a Port Arthur park, a flag raising ceremony, and a re-enactment of the reading of General Order #3, which was the American legal decree issued in 1865 that announced enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation to the residents of the state of Texas and freed all remaining enslaved people in the state.
Ice House Museum & Cultural Center, Inc. – 1800s Flatboat Construction
The Ice House Museum has constructed a permanent exhibit of a flatboat of the type that would have been used to transport goods down Texas waterways. Funding from SETAC was used to procure props for the boat and to paint a background mural.
Silsbee Visitor Center – Roof Repair
The Silsbee Visitors Center (SVC) purchased the historic Pines Theater for $1 from AMC Theatres in August of 2020. The Pines had long served as one of the last theaters left in the country that could sell tickets for $1. Visitors from as far as Orange and Port Arthur would attend first run showings of movies like Pearl Harbor or Star Wars. Damage from Hurricane Harvey shuttered the venue, and the roof is in a state of disrepair. SETAC is proud to assist in the restoration of this historic theater.
Orange Community Players – Theater Renovation
The Orange Community Players lost their building during Hurricane Harvey and have been obliged to buy and renovate a new one. Purchasing insulation isn’t the most glamorous way to support the arts, but it’s necessary and SETAC is proud to do it.
Performing and Visual Arts Council – ArtFest
ArtFest is an annual exhibit of works by Silsbee Independent School District students K – 12 which provides young artists with a public exhibition space. The three week display will be accompanied by an open house and participation in the Spring in the Big Thicket Festival. Grant money from SETAC pays for supplies, artist and entertainment fees, and salary.
Silsbee Little Theater – Spring Dinner Theater
During the month of April 2022, the Silsbee Little Theater plans to host a number of dinner theater performances. Funds from SETAC will allow the organization to buy scripts, pay production fees and buy materials, while volunteers will handle set-building and service.
Port Arthur Little Theater – Theater Security
After experiencing a theft last year, the Port Arthur Little Theater saw the need for better security for their building. It would be nice if there was no need to fund such things, but that’s just wishful thinking. SETAC is glad to be able to provide not just support for the arts, but protection as well.
The mission of the Southeast Texas Arts Council is to promote the knowledge and appreciation of the arts and humanities in Hardin, Jefferson and Orange counties through funding, publicity and advocacy.
All members receive:
• A subscritpion to our montly newsletter
• A subscritpion to our award-winning
arts tourism magazine Off Ramp
• A cool SETAC window decal