s a local landmark rented by the El Campo Art Association neared the end of its lease term, the El Campo City Council voted 6 to 0 in favor of renewing the building’s lease for 20 years at an annual rent of $1.
“I’m grateful that city council voted unanimously to extend the lease,” City Council Member Chris Barbee said. “The art league can now continue to practice their craft and teach budding new arts in this city-owned landmark.”
Art Association President Mae Borak was ecstatic about the council’s decision.
“Oh my God, we’re just so so happy,” Borak said. “That means we get to stay here another 20 years.”
One dollar per year sounds like a fantasy deal for renting a building. The annual $1 rate offsets the costs of maintaining the 1940 building. Originally, the historical site was El Campo’s first library building. Previously, El Campo’s library consisted of a 6 ft x 10 ft room in the downtown fire station. In 1983, the building was acquired by the Art Association and converted into a community art center.
“We do all of the upkeep, repairing, everything,” Borak said. “The art league pays for everything, and that is a part of the lease.”
The Art Association revamped the inside of the building by repainting and redoing the concrete plaster walls and replacing handmade elements like trim on the ceilings in order to match the original design of the building. As a historical site, the outside of the building cannot be altered.
In 2010, the city approved the Art Association’s request to replace the building’s dripping roof with money collected from league fundraisers.
“It leaked like a soup strainer,” Borak said.
This year, some of the building’s windows will be replaced after suffering years of termite damage, but Borak wanted to renew the lease before fixing them.
The last Art Association lease had a 10-year term, but after a recommendation from Mayor Pro-tem Philip Miller, the council lengthened the new lease to 20 years.
“I felt now would be a good time to go ahead and extend the lease,” Barbee said. “Art league members had been told that a member of city council wanted to sell the building, so they became concerned.”
Borak teaches private painting lessons in the Art Association Building on Monday mornings and afternoons for adults and 4:15 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday for children seven years and older.
“There’s so many people that say, ‘I can’t paint,’” Borak said. “Well, I don’t believe in the word ‘can’t.’ Anybody can learn to paint, because anything in life that you do is a learning process.”
Borak charges a monthly fee of $38 for weekly kids’ sessions or a per-session fee of $12 for adults. In the past, lessons were offered for stained-glass making, oil painting and watercolor painting. Every three months, a professional artist will host a workshop in assorted art mediums.
Borak is currently looking for instructors willing to teach various forms of art, such as photography. The position would be paid.
“It’s a social hour,” Borak said. “We get to paint all day, and we’re just real happy.”
The Art Association currently has about 45 members and meets the fourth Tuesday of every month, excluding July, August and December. They get together to paint, participate in various community events and occasionally takes trips, such as to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.
There is no prior art experience required to join, but a yearly enrollment fee of $10 for children, $20 for adults or $30 for families.
“I need the young to help us along,” Borak said. “That’s what keeps any organization going is our younger members, so we’re always looking for new members.”
Those interested in joining the Art Association should fill out a form, available at their building on 201 Monseratte.
To inquire about art classes and teaching positions, call Borak at 979-541-0911.