A vacant lot in San Angelo, Texas, is getting the upcycle treatment, and soon an unfortunate site with a spotty history will become an open-air museum.  

Pop art piece featuring bright red lips and hand holding can of spray paint
San Angelo's Pop Art Museum is set to open October 29. Image: San Angelo Convention & Visitors Bureau

Built in 1946 as the Bowling Center, 125 W. Twohig Avenue was struck by lightning in 1952, rebuilt three years later as the San Angelo Bowl, and renamed Star Lanes in 1959. The building’s remains have stood empty for years, and now, a local nonprofit called Art in Uncommon Places is partnering with Downtown San Angelo to transform the abandoned space into the Pop Art Museum.

Pop Art Museum soup cans.jpg
Local nonprofit Art in Uncommon Places and Downtown San Angelo have partnered to transform the previously abandoned space into an open-air gallery. Image: San Angelo Convention & Visitors Bureau

For this small West Texas city, the theme of pop art hits a note of hometown pride. Known for his “Marilyn Triptych,” among others, artist James Francis Gill grew up in San Angelo, going on to become a contemporary of Andy Warhol, Robert Indiana, and Roy Lichtenstein – and a key player in the genre in his own right. Gill will be contributing an original piece to the Pop Art Museum, along with 30 other artists whose work will fill the gallery. The hope is that the space will become a creative destination for visitors as well as San Angelo’s 100,000-plus citizens, and to that end, the alfresco display will be accessible around the clock when it debuts in the fall. (The opening is slated for October 29.)

San Angelo's Paintbrush Alley is a project of Art in Uncommon Places that pays tribute to Giant, a film shot in Marfa, Texas.
San Angelo's Paintbrush Alley comes courtesy of Art in Uncommon Places and pays tribute to Giant, a film shot in Marfa, Texas. Image by San Angelo Convention & Visitors Bureau

This type of program is par for the course for Art in Uncommon Places, an organization launched in 2006 by retired art teachers with the mission of providing underserved urban communities with high-profile installations. In the years since its founding, it’s placed more than 100 pieces throughout the city and surrounding region, using inmate trustees to help produce the work. The latest, a large-scale tribute to the movie Giant, can now be found in Paintbrush Alley, located behind San Angelo’s historic Concho Avenue. More than 50 artists stepped up to pay tribute to the Texas-shot, Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean–starring film, and it’s now one of the downtown area’s standout attractions.  

For updates on the Pop Art Museum and to learn more about the organization, visit artinuncommonplaces.org

This article was originally published on 20 August, 2019 and updated on 3 October, 2019. 

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