Goodbye, chicken coops … hello, art community. The Chicken Farm Art Center—the cultural and eclectic likes of which can’t be found in some larger cities—serves up plenty of sophistication to kick off our art tour from San Angelo to Paint Rock, where the famous pictographs overlooking the Concho River are as mystical as ever. Throw in the blue water of the three lakes that rim San Angelo’s northwest and southwest edges—O.C. Fisher Lake, Twin Buttes Reservoir and Lake Nasworthy—and we’ve got a palette rich with recreational and historical color. Our journey starts in San Angelo, headquarters for Concho Valley Electric Cooperative, and then heads east on FM 380 for about a 30-mile drive to Paint Rock.
Visitors to the Chicken Farm Art Center—which as a chicken farm came complete with coops and grain silos—find open doors to art studios, friendly artists and ample shade cast by ash, hackberry, red and live oak, pecan, and pine trees. In 1971, artist Roger Allen and others converted the closed farm into an art compound, and it now features artists working in mosaic, stone sculpture, painting, pottery and photography. Allen, the art center’s owner and proprietor of StarKeeper Gallery, is one of several artists who live on the property. Want to stay a couple of days yourself? Book a room at the Inn at the Art Center, and sample the fare at the Silo House Restaurant (dinner by reservation only, Thursday through Saturday), which sits inside two old grain silos. Naturally, any art-minded tour of San Angelo should include a trip to the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts. And don’t forget the city’s International Water Lily Collection. Downtown, on South Oakes Street, watch the art of handmade bootmaking at M.L. Leddy’s.
San Angelo Visitor Center and Chamber of Commerce, 1-800-375-1206, www.sanangelo.org
Chicken Farm Art Center, (325) 653-4936, www.chickenfarmartcenter.com
Inn at the Art Center, (325) 659-3836, www.innattheartcenter.com
Silo House Restaurant, (325) 658-3333
San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts, (325) 653-3333, www.samfa.org
San Angelo’s Lakes
O.C. Fisher Lake has been running low, but recreational activities still abound at this reservoir and dam that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed in 1952 for flood control on the North Concho River. Next to the lake is the 7,677-acre San Angelo State Park with more than 50 miles of trails for hiking, biking and equestrian use. Twin Buttes Reservoir, created in 1963, is a recreational lake owned by the Bureau of Reclamation that offers extensive no-fee hunting and four no-fee boat ramps. There are no entrance or camping fees. Lake Nasworthy, created in 1930, is a city-owned recreational lake that’s fed by Twin Buttes and the South Concho River. The lake has two marinas and eight no-fee boat ramps.
O.C. Fisher Lake, (325) 949-4757, www.tpwd.state.tx.us
Twin Buttes Reservoir, (325) 481-2617
Lake Nasworthy, (325) 481-2617
The Indian pictographs on Kay and Fred Campbell’s ranch aren’t just paint on a 70-foot-tall rocky bluff overlooking the Concho River. They’re interactive, mysterious works of art that draw tourists year after year.
Winter solstice usually attracts a large crowd to see a dagger of light point to the center of the sun painted on the back of a red turtle. Each pictograph—there are hundreds painted by various tribes at widely differing dates along the half-mile bluff—tells a story that’s open to interpretation. Some of the paintings could be thousands of years old. Tours are by appointment only.
Weave more color into your art trip by visiting Ingrid’s Custom Hand-Woven in Paint Rock. The store makes rugs on-site using alpaca, buffalo, llama, mohair and wool fleece. Visitors are welcome to watch the hand-weaving process done on looms.
Indian pictographs, (325) 732-4376, www.paintrockpictographs.com
Ingrid’s Custom Hand-Woven, (325) 732-4370
Camille Wheeler is the staff writer for Texas Co-op Power.