A striking landmark the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts sits perched along the Concho River in downtown San Angelo, Texas. It’s hard to miss the colossal building with the copper saddle shaped roof (even though the museum has maintained for years that the roof shape is neither a saddle nor a covered wagon). The building, for many locals, is the “new” museum building, although it opened in 1999. The museum itself was established in the early 1980s and first lived in the Quartermaster Building at historic Fort Concho. The museum is closed on Mondays. It’s regular hours are 10am-4pm Tuesday through Saturday and 1pm-4pm on Sundays. Museum exhibit openings are often held in the evenings. For a more socially focused experience, visiting the museum for an exhibit opening is a wonderful way to interact with San Angelo natives and artists. For a more personal experience, Sunday afternoons allow you to quietly move from piece to piece, reading and considering the art.
When walking into the cool, lower level of SAMFA (as it’s known to the locals), one of the most notable architectural features is the mesquite wood block floors. The ground floor boasts a large gathering room which is often used by local organizations for events and even the museum itself when catering an exhibit opening. On the evenings of the Downtown Stroll, the museum will often open its doors until 9pm. Sometimes, in this large gathering room there will even be yoga and wine on those evenings. The exhibits are located on the second and third floors of the museum.
As you make your way to the second level, be sure to check in at the gift shop where you will pay an admission of $2.00 if you’re an adult ($1.00 for seniors; military, students, and families - children under the age of 18- are free). Annual membership to the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts starts at $10.00. The gift shop holds a wide collection of merchandise ranging from original art by local artists to books and apparel.
From the gift shop, you’ll be directed to a large exhibit room to your right. This room features high ceilings and bright, natural light. Currently, the museum is displaying its permanent collection. An astounding ceramic display of varying sizes currently resides in this room. Some of the pieces were donations or gifts to the museum and others were purchased by the museum. Be sure to take a moment to examine The White Hart (2016), one of my favorite pieces, by artist Ariel Bowman. A second display of the museum’s permanent collection is located next to the gift shop and features more ceramic and historic pieces. There are over 600 objects in the permanent collection. The San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts prides itself on its role in the National Ceramic Competition and will often purchase pieces to add to its own collection at that event.
On the third level of the museum are two connected exhibit rooms. They currently feature some of the best paintings and historic pieces that the museum holds, including many pieces of Spanish-Colonial art. One cannot overlook the work of Emma Lee Moss, a renowned African-American folk artist, who called San Angelo home for a number of years. Make sure to pause for a moment at her piece Dead Oak Tree (1989) before making your way to the colonial art. Perhaps one of the most commanding pieces of Spanish-Colonial art that SAMFA holds in its permanent collection is the Kneeling Angel (for the Puebla Cathedral) (1888), a beautiful piece of art by Salvador Guevara. The angel is not alone in this exhibit, it's surrounded by other striking religious pieces ranging from the 1700s to the 1950s.
Before you leave the museum, make sure that you explore the rooftop, located on the third level of the museum. If you happen to be in the area at the beginning of July, the museum often hosts members in a private party with a perfect view of the San Angelo July 3rd Celebration. The rooftop provides a marvelous opportunity to gaze upon the downtown skyline, a must-see for visitors and locals alike. When making your way out of the museum, be sure to take a stroll along the Celebration Bridge, located just to the left of the museum (and visible from the roof) where you will also see a sculpture of the San Angelo mermaid.
Although San Angelo, Texas is a tiny West Texas town the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts provides endless opportunities for visitors and residents alike to experience a wide array of culture and history that leaves a lasting impression on those who venture inside. The current exhibit will continue to be on display through April 5, 2020. Be sure to stop by, say “Howdy”, and check out some fantastic pieces before you mosey on down the road.
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Sebastian McKerracher is a web designer and woodworker. When he isn't sitting behind a computer screen or building a cutting board he sometimes finds time to visit modern art galleries or natural history museums.