A river runs through it


by Tina Manzer

For the fourth year in a row, NAMTA’s Art Materials World will co-locate with The Campus Market Expo (CAMEX) hosted by the National Association of College Stores. Scheduled for February 24 through 26 in San Antonio, the tradeshow of the International Art Materials Trade Association will feature 125 exhibitors plus in-booth artist demos, interactive educational sessions, a highly competitive Cornhole Tournament, and three parties!

Everyone is invited to the Welcome Reception at the Hilton Palacio del Rio across the street from the convention center. Sponsored by Winsor & Newton, the party will be held in the Salon del Rey Ballroom of NAMTA’s headquarters hotel, and offer light hors d’oeuvres and complimentary beer, wine, and soft drinks.

Then on Sunday, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., NAMTA President Jeremy Franklin and the board of directors will host the President’s Reception at the Briscoe Western Art Museum, just steps away from the Hilton on the Riverwalk.

The Briscoe, opened in 2013, is named for Dolph Briscoe, Jr., governor of Texas during the oil and gas boom of the early 1970s. A prominent rancher and possibly the largest landholder in the state, Briscoe never revealed his full wealth during his public career. His family remains actively philanthropic in the region, donating $4 million to help fund the museum, and $3 million to endow the Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin.

The museum campus features the restored, historic, 1930’s art deco museum building (the former San Antonio Public Library) and the three-story Jack Guenther event Pavilion and McNutt Sculpture Garden. It is considered “a spectacular oasis” in the heart of downtown San Antonio.

Then on Monday, February 25, from 5:30 to 7:30, NAMTA attendees under the age of 45 are invited to The Next Generation Reception. The venue is Casa Rio, the oldest restaurant on the River Walk. In 1946, Casa Rio was the first San Antonio business to take advantage of the setting and open its doors to the river. The restaurant sits on land first granted title in 1777 by the King of Spain. Remnants of the original hacienda, including the cedar door and window lintels, the fireplace, and thick rock walls are still evident inside.

World’s Fair roots

If you haven’t been to a tradeshow in San Antonio for a while (or at all) you’re in for a treat. A $325 million renovation of The Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center was completed three years ago with spectacular results – more space, more flexibility, advanced technology and an innovative design. The “Liquid Crystal” digital fountain in the atrium lobby – with 3,510 LCD interactive panels – “flows” depending on the amount of people and activity in the atrium. It was created by London-based artist Jason Bruges, known for creating art that intersects architecture, installation sculpture, and interactive design.

The original convention center was built 50 years ago for HemisFair ’68, the official 1968 World’s Fair that coincided with the 250th anniversary of San Antonio’s founding. It opened in April just two days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., so its VIPs – First Lady Lady Bird Johnson and Texas Governor John Connally among them – toured the site under heavy security.

When the fair closed that October, ownership of the property was divided among the State of Texas, the Federal Government and the city. San Antonio owns about 50 acres including the 30-acre site of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.

Some of the land was redeveloped in the late 1980s with cascading waterfalls, fountains, playgrounds and lush landscaping, but little else was done until 2009. That’s when the city council established the HemisFair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation (HPARC). Its goal is to create a spectacular public space at the heart of San Antonio, with plazas, courtyards, green space, art and cultural amenities, residences, and local businesses.

Next stop Chicago

“The CAMEX arrangement has worked well for NAMTA,” said NAMTA Executive Director Reggie Hall in a recent interview. “The arrangement was originally for three years, but after the success we experienced in the first year, we agreed to do a fourth.”

With 500 or so exhibitors, CAMEX is a much larger show than NAMTA’S and serves a much larger industry – $10 billion annually. The stores sell a wide range of categories from apparel to tech, convenience items to gifts, and art supplies.

“The co-located event created new buying/selling opportunities for some of our members, plus it was a good financial partnership for NAMTA,” Reggie continues. “We were able to reduce and/or share costs with CAMEX each year and that was beneficial.”

However, NACS is currently undergoing a dramatic, strategic organizational change that will impact CAMEX, he says. The two associations will go their separate ways after this year’s show. In 2020 Art Materials World will be a standalone event in Chicago, scheduled for April 26 through 28.

“Chicago has always been the number-one choice of Art Materials World attendees but, historically, it has been cost-prohibitive,” Reggie explains. “We had had some conversations with Chicago Convention Bureau staff who told us we should explore it again because the city was ‘more negotiable.’ We did, and found that using the combination of the Chicago Hyatt and Navy Pier fit our budget … so well, in fact, that we signed a two-year agreement.”

Based on the favored location, the association is hoping for a significant turnout from retailers and exhibitors next year. “People are excited about Chicago,” he says, “and we are optimistic. We won’t know for sure until they start registering and purchasing booth space.”

He adds: “The NAMTA Board has been aggressively pursuing co-location partners and we’ve spoken with several – AFCI, formerly CHA; and the Stationery Show, for example. But it’s challenging to find an association that isn’t contractually obligated to hotels/convention centers several years into the future and is a match in terms of dates, locations, conference format, etc. For the foreseeable future NAMTA does not anticipate co-locating.”

To find out more about Art Materials World, visit namta.org.

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