Brian Goesl has been at the center of the Texarkana arts and culture scene for about two decades, but that is about to change. His post as Executive Director of the Texarkana Regional Arts and Humanities Council gives him the opportunity to pause and reflect as he and TRAHC both move forward.
Goesl will retire at the end of the month, while TRAHC’s current Director of Education, Jennifer Unger, takes on the position of interim director while the search for a permanent director continues.
“It was an absolute privilege to work at TRAHC and with other nonprofits and with the community. It really is. And as an ED it was just the icing on the cake,” said Goesl.
He has led the agency through its successes and challenges since 2008, having assumed the position after leading TRAHC’s community and outreach programs. He started at TRAHC in 1999.
Looking back on his tenure, Goesl points out some special projects that he greatly appreciates and is proud of, but promoting arts education, improving the city center, overseeing the Perot theater and reaching out to young students are some areas which he highlights in his reflection.
In this 2017 Gazette File photo, Brian Goesl, Executive Director of the Texarkana Regional Arts and Humanities Council, shares the plays and events coming to the Perot Theater.
“I think we’ve achieved a lot. I’ve been Executive Director for a little over 13 years,” said Goesl, referring to several art-related projects in the city center that he has taken on the lead.
It’s a long list of works that have improved the appearance and prosperity of the downtown area.
The Heritage Gateway Project, establishment of an arts and historical district, recognition of this district as an official cultural district by the Texas Commission on the Arts, the redesign of the Scott Joplin mural, banners and planters in the city center, the new George Tobolowsky exhibition and the purchase of two sculptures (one in Spring Lake Park, another in Texas City Hall), the design and creation of ArtSparK and its Art Wall, the mosaic art wall – these are just a few of the projects during his tenure, he said .
“They were all pretty significant, I think,” said Goesl.
Then there is regular maintenance and upkeep at the Perot Theater, where TRAHC oversaw the welfare of the downtown gem for many years. TRAHC will soon hand over these tasks to the Texarkana Symphony Orchestra in early September.
But from installing the handrail, improving the balcony steps, replacing carpets, installing a TV security system to adding aisle lighting, a new sound system installation with headset upgrades and much more, the Perot has seen many improvements.
“We bought a digital projector for concerts and films,” says Goesl. “We have introduced new safety equipment for the workers. We have started ghost tours.”
While ticket sales for TRAHC’s annual show series at the Perot Theater declined, TRAHC upgraded the series to shorten it and offer additional forms of entertainment such as films there. The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t help either, but they held out.
“We carried on the holiday traditions of the Perot Theater. We did that again last year, ”said Goesl. “I think things like that that we did are important.”
The Perot was designed to be the top Texarkana tourism destination on the internet, he said. Free tours were also continued.
“I think that’s pretty important for the city center,” said Goesl. “Only the redevelopment of the inner city and the economic development of the inner city.”
Patti and Brian Goesl can be seen in this submitted photo.
TRAHC partnered with cities, the Texarkana Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Texarkana, the Texarkana Symphony Orchestra and the Texarkana Museum System in this downtown effort.
“We’ve all worked very, very hard to make this happen because downtown Texarkana didn’t look like it 10 years ago,” said Goesl. “It didn’t look like that eight years ago.”
This includes not only bringing tourists downtown, but also providing elements of entertainment and other reasons for the community to come downtown, he said.
Arts on Main and establishment of classes there, expansion of the Adult Juried Exhibition from a national to an international exhibition, installation of an ADA ramp and entrance to the Regional Arts Center, new flooring in the galleries and a kitchen remodeling – they’re some of the other completed projects .
The RAC also saw other upgrades to its historic structure.
“The Cabe Hall has been repainted, all air conditioning has been replaced,” said Goesl. “We changed the color of the exterior cladding to green, which was much more traditional, based on the historical color for the building.”
TRAHC did all of this, he said.
“Now, of course, I haven’t done everything on my own,” said Goesl, “but a lot was on my initiative and then with the community, with other non-profit organizations.”
With TRAHC’s educational arm – ArtsSmart – its reach has grown through programs like a Kennedy Center partnership and working with other nonprofits. The Perot isn’t all that TRAHC does, he said. It’s education too.
“That has really changed under Ruth Ellen Whitt’s guidance, and I’ve continued,” said Goesl.
When Goesl ponders his best moments while working at the Arts Center, Perot, and elsewhere, he points to a special exhibit, “Date with Diana,” a collection of Princess Diana memorabilia such as dresses and robes.
“We literally had thousands of people through,” recalls Goesl. “We had bus tours that came in to see this, so I have to say it was a big event for us.”
Or his work on public art, which makes sculptures like Tobolowsky’s works a part of the Texarkana landscape. Or the murals, he said.
“Just look at the number of murals created in the past year and a half,” he said. They are great memories that he will cherish.
Though jump, jive, and jam came to an end, the eight years of this downtown arts festival were also many good times – when it wasn’t raining, he said. Children playing in the ArtSpark, student buses unloading – these are incredible memories.
But other aspects of his TRAHC time will remain in his mind forever.
“It was also a privilege,” said Goesl about the regional art center where his office is located. “I’m walking through this building as I get ready to go home, and it’s a privilege to be in this building. It really is a great building.”
He values the influence of art on children who experience parks in the city center, for example.
“Things like that, on which we have worked with people in the community, are important,” said Goesl. “And finally, we had a lot of art experience, in terms of teaching, including exhibitions, and we always wanted artists to live downtown. That was a big goal of ours.”
What will Goesl do to enjoy his retirement? For one thing, he could make art.
“To be honest, I’ll be realizing a lot of projects that I’ve always wanted to do. Of course, I’m very project-oriented. I work a lot with my hands. I was actually a painter,” said Goesl. “It would be kind of nice to start painting again. I haven’t done that for many years.”
You won’t catch him “working”, but he’ll likely volunteer.
Goesl wishes TRAHC all the best for the cultural organization at this new point in time.
“This is a fresh start for TRAHC,” said Goesl. “We’ve been here for over 40 years and everyone thought we’d just do the Perot Theater. But ArtsSmart, education was the foundation of TRAHC long before theater was developed.”
Artists in schools, performances for students – such things will continue with education as a central aspect of TRAHC’s work, he said.
“TRAHC will continue to sponsor such things. Artists will evolve. Recognized local and regional artists will continue to have an incredible collection, “said Goesl, adding,” I have no doubt that TRAHC will continue. Absolutely.”
REFLECTIONS: Colleagues praise Goesl’s leadership and vision