'An artist, a collector and a benefactor' tells her story
By Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
AMERICAN-STATESMAN ARTS WRITER
Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Linda Pace started ArtPace, the internationally recognized artist residency program in San Antonio, because a snake bit her in the right side of the head. Or at least it did in a 1987 dream -- the Pace Picante sauce heiress and artist dreamed that a snake attacked the creative half of her brain. That dream galvanized her to be 'an artist, a collector and a benefactor -- not just one role, but three,' as she writes in 'Dreaming Red: Creating ArtPace,' the just-published book that's admittedly a bit of an odd mix: part history of the institution Pace established, part exhibition survey and part personal memoir by Pace.
But then it's fitting that the book is as singular as the art institution and the woman who founded it.
Pace will be in town Thursday at Arthouse at the Jones Center for a reading and book signing, along with Jan Jarboe Russell, the Texas Monthly writer-at-large who collaborated with Pace.
There are few places like ArtPace. Since opening in January 1995, it has hosted nearly 90 artists from around the world -- three at a time -- for two-month residencies at its downtown San Antonio facility, a former auto showroom stylishly converted into exhibit space and artist apartments. Artists are chosen by a revolving panel of arts professionals. The artists -- always one from Texas, one from elsewhere in the United States and one from outside the United States -- are given two months, a stipend of $4,000 and a materials budget of $7,000 to create whatever they like. When the residency is over, the projects are on view for two months. After that, artists own the work: ArtPace doesn't collect any of the art that's produced there. It's a nearly unprecedented combination of generous arts patronage fused with an unbridled encouragement of artistic experimentation.
Which is just what Linda Pace wanted. 'I didn't want to have a place that was just static,' she says with a soft Texas drawl in a recent phone interview. 'There's a completely different kind of energy when you're helping artists realize their new ideas. It keeps things vital and alive.'
Granted, Pace herself has acquired many of the ArtPace projects for her own private collection. But her dedication to keeping the artistic balls in the air at all times at ArtPace is unwavering.
More than the snakebite dream, two other experiences inspired ArtPace.
In the early 1990s, during her second marriage (to businessman Dick Roberts), Pace began to divide her time between London and San Antonio. 'I was blown away by the vibrant contemporary art scene I was exposed to in London,' she says. 'And I realized how nobody in San Antonio had a chance to see art like that in their own city.'
So she vowed to find some way to bring it to the Alamo City.
At the same time, she was involved with the San Antonio Art Institute, which was expanding rapidly and seeking accreditation. (It would later close when the Texas economy crashed and accreditation was denied.) 'When a visiting artist came for a residency, the students would just come alive. It was a transformative experience for them,' she said.
It was certainly more positive than her own educational experience. While an undergraduate at the University of Texas, she was criticized by a painting professor who didn't like her hard-edged abstraction: He told her he would give her a C if she promised not to paint again.
Years later, Pace vowed to find some way to foster positive exchange between local artists and artists from outside Texas and also keep the emphasis on the artistic process, not the end product. Perhaps most importantly, Pace decided to do it on her own.
Pace was in a unique position to do so. During her first marriage, to Kit Goldbury, scion of a prominent South Texas ranching family, the couple had assumed ownership of her family's company, Pace Foods, and built it into a multimillion-dollar enterprise. When the marriage ended in 1991, Pace received a reported $100 million settlement. Pace has funded the nonprofit institution entirely on her own. (The institution currently has an annual budget of $1.2 million.) In 2001, she appointed a board and charged it with the responsibility of fund raising.
Because of ArtPace, San Antonio has become a preview site for the international art world. Works created there have gone to such prestigious shows as the Whitney Biennial in New York and the Turner Prize show in London. And many of its alumni have gone on to critical -- and financial -- success. So strong is ArtPace's influence outside Texas that 'Dreaming Red' had its launch in New York over a month before Pace launched the book in San Antonio.
ArtPace's influence has extended up Interstate 35 to Austin, too. Several Austin artists -- Bill Lundberg, Margo Sawyer, Regina Vater and Mel Ziegler -- have been granted residencies. ArtPace's first director was Laurence Miller, former longtime director of Laguna Gloria Art Museum, now the Austin Musem of Art. And a few years ago, Annette DiMeo Carlozzi, curator of contemporary art at the Blanton Museum of Art, served on the curatorial panel, as did Dana Friis-Hansen, executive director of the Austin Museum of Art.
'Dreaming Red' marks a turning point for Pace. After years at ArtPace's helm, she's stepping back from her day-to-day involvement. 'I'm really ready for this,' says Pace. '(ArtPace) has a fabulous director and they don't need a mother hen around anymore. Besides, I'm spending more time in the studio now, making art. And that's where I want to be.'
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