When Donna Blair and Tamara Carlisle bought a 119-year-old building in downtown Lockhart right across the street from the Caldwell County Courthouse, the pair of entrepreneurs initially considered it a real estate investment. But almost immediately, they began to envision the high-ceilinged commercial space as perfect for an art gallery.
“As soon as I saw the building, I felt like the space was screaming to be an art gallery,” said Blair.
The pair — whose companies Blairfield Realty and Blair & Carlisle Homes are involved in home building/development and real estate in Austin — opened their gallery in March with an exhibit featuring Austin artist Patrick Puckett followed in May with a show by Dallas artist Matt Kaplinsky.
Commerce Gallery also has an artist-in-residence. Painter Christopher St. Leger, a longtime Lockhart resident, rents a studio space in the back of the building and his paintings occupy a permanent place on one of the gallery’s long walls.
But the big opening celebration was saved for July 5 when the large-scale paintings of Austin artist Stella Alesi went on view.
Blair and Carlisle — who describe themselves art enthusiasts and collectors — will together oversee all gallery operations, including artist selection and programming.
To dovetail with Lockhart’s First Friday monthly happenings, the gallery will host bi-monthly pop-up exhibitions. Curated shows will take place Friday through Sunday every other month. Musician, visual artist, and Lockhart resident Dana Falconberry will launch the pop-up exhibition series on Friday, Aug. 2 from 6-9 p.m.
Also, the gallery recently announced “LockhART Talks,” a monthly series of free artist talks. Held on Wednesday evenings from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., the first talk is on July 24 and features resident artist St. Leger. Falconberry will be featured Aug. 25 and Danika Ostrowski on Sept. 25.
Blair and Carlisle have become quite the Lockhart enthusiasts. They also purchased and updated a 1912 house not far from the courthouse square as their weekend escape.
About 30 miles from Austin, Lockhart is better known for its barbecue than for its contemporary art, the small town a popular destination for day trips. Nevertheless, Commerce Gallery joins Spellerberg Projects, a non-commercial effort of design agency Spellerberg Associates, which operates two small project spaces just across the courthouse square.
Commerce Gallery is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays.