The Rockport Cultural Arts District (RCAD) is continuing to collaborate with artist Steve Russell on his “Cultural Interface” sculpture project, documenting the multi-cultural heritage of Aransas County, including the contributions of early Native American, Hispanic and other nationalities and ethnicities.  RCAD is sponsoring Russell’s sculptures with fund-raising and management roles, collaborating with the Aransas County Navigation District.  The first of the two groupings in Russell’s series is currently in the molding and bronzing process at Hefestus Fine Arts, while Russell continues to conceptualize the final design for the second grouping.

In an ongoing dialogue to listen to input from representative members of different indigenous groups and community organizations, Russell and Jennifer Day, Rockport Cultural Art District’s (RCAD) Executive Director, have met with Larry “Running Turtle” Salazar, a Corpus Christi leader and advocate for regional Native peoples.  They discussed how Salazar and others might be included in programs in Rockport to raise awareness about Indigenous cultures.   Day noted, “The Rockport Cultural Arts District, like the other 51 districts throughout Texas, celebrates the different ethnicities and cultures that have influenced our communities.  We’ve recognized Black, Hispanic and Vietnamese groups in our programs and activities, and Steve’s sculptures are a tribute to Indigenous peoples’ roles in our culture.  As Joseph Fox of the Fulton Mansion noted in a letter to the editor of The Rockport Pilot, we see these sculptures as a ‘place to start conversations about local history,’ including Hispanic and Native American history, that remains relevant but largely unknown.”, see complete letter shown below.

Letter to the Editor written by Joseph Fox, Education Director at Fulton Mansion State Historic Site….

Dear editor:  The recent article in Texas Monthly about the Steve Russell statues in Little Bay is yet another misguided attempt to generate controversy by trashing small town Texas.  It unfairly maligns Russell’s work by associating it with Confederate statues and trashes Rockport as racist because there are white Trump supporters living there.   Furthermore, the article misinterprets the history of the Spanish in the Coastal Bend as “imaginary” because the event Russell depicts is not historical.  The Spanish presence in modern-day Aransas County, where they had a fort, mission, and the port of El Copano, was real.  So are terms in our region brought by the Spanish like Corpus Christi, Victoria, Refugio, or even Aransas (a combo of Our Lady of Aranzazu and a Karankawa group called the Aranama).  The article reduces it all to “conflict, disease, and slavery” but ignores that while periods of open war existed between the Spanish ad Karankawa, the establishment of Nuestra Senora del Refugio Mission in present day Refugio in 1795 ended the hostilities with the Karankawa dominating the Spanish while incorporating parts of Spanish culture into their ways of life.   The article conflates the actions of later colonizers who exterminated the Karankawa with the Spanish depicted in Russell’s statues and miss an obvious point, why can’t “Cultural Interface” be a place to start conversations about local history?  With a greater number of Catholic, Spanish-speakers moving to Texas, this history remains relevant, but largely unknown.   Controversy generates clicks and feeds trolls, but this is merely another missed opportunity of 2021.    Joseph Fox

Russell’s artist statement about this work is available at https://www.steverussellart.com/blog.   More information about the sculpture project can also be found at https://rockportculturalartsdistrict.com/steve-russells-cultural-interface-sculpture-project-update/.