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The Mission of the South Texas Institute for the Arts (the Institute), doing business as the Art Museum of South Texas, is to operate educational facilities and an art museum which advance the awareness, knowledge, appreciation and enjoyment of the visual arts for residents and visitors of South Texas. To meet its educational mission, the Institute will present a variety of programs which include classes, lectures, films, performances and other activities which inspire community interest in the visual arts. These programs will be offered at the Art Museum of South Texas, the Antonio E. Garcia Arts and Education Center, and other outreach venues that serve the Institute’s mission. In operating an art museum, the Institute will actively collect, conserve, exhibit, research and interpret outstanding works of visual art with particular interest in art of the Americas and of the region.
The Art Museum of South Texas had its origins in 1945, when the City of Corpus Christi turned its Centennial Museum over to a group of local arts organizations. By the 1960s, the Museum had outgrown its space.
The Art Museum opened to the public on the Corpus Christi Bayfront in October 1972. Constructed entirely out of white shellcrete and plaster, it seems to radiate with the strong South Texas heat and light. Philip Johnson stated "Light is the essence, and light coming in from all sides is especially bathing and soothing."
The Legislature of the State of Texas appropriated special funding in 1995 to have the Art Museum of South Texas affiliated with Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and administered as a cooperative joint venture. Since then, State dollars are matched at a minimum of 2:1 from private and community sources.
In 1997 the Corpus Christi Creative Arts Center and Center for Hispanic Arts merged with the Art Museum under the auspices of the South Texas Institute for the Arts. Many of the programs offered by these organizations continue at the Antonio E Garcia Arts & Education Center (Garcia Center), 2021 Agnes Street, which serves as an outreach site for the Art Museum.
A major expansion in 2006, designed by internationally renowned architect Ricardo Legorreta, doubled the gallery and exhibition space of the Art Museum. The expansion was funded by private sector donations and community support.