With Steel Dynamics bringing its $1.7 billion steel mill project to Sinton, there’s a lot of preparations that need to be made in order for the city to take advantage of the growth – both economically and culturally.

The Sinton Chamber of Commerce is taking on the challenge artfully as it opens its doors to artists of all mediums to display their works in a new gallery space, located in the organization’s offices.

On Nov. 21 from 5 to 7 p.m. the chamber welcomes any and all guests to come and enjoy the artwork on display along with a ribbon cutting ceremony officially opening up the gallery.

Creating the artist

And when the group was looking for its first artist to fill the space, they had to look no further than Sinton’s Chamber of Commerce Administrative Assistant and Membership Coordinator Christie Prine.

She and her husband, Rick, run a photography studio in town, but her artwork is more hands-on than that venture.

Prine said that they lived in Greece, on the island of Crete, and would go out and have coffee once a month and listen to guest speakers. It was there where she met a woman who would do watercolor paintings.

“And her work was just gorgeous and then she was talking about doing classes and I thought, ‘That sounds like something fun to do. I think I’ll go take one.’ 

“The problem was her first language was German, her second language was Greek and her third language was English.

“My only language is English with a little bit of Spanish.”

With frustration over communication growing between the two women, Prine thought it best to just forgo the whole thing altogether.

The couple would soon move to Mexico, and Prine would get another shot at creating – this time in a medium she would come to fall in love with.

“There was this little community that we were in, and this guy had put up some stuff saying that he was doing drawing classes, and Rick said, ‘You need to go, you need to go,’ so finally I said I’d go,” Prine continued.

“He taught a lot of pencil drawing, and then he did an acrylic class, and I took that but wasn’t a fan.

“My neighbor at the time did oil paintings, and she’s said you need to come and go to class with me. So, just to get her to go away and my husband to get off my back, I went with her.

“And that started me painting.

“Just having a really great instructor down there, who’s a self-taught painter, named Javier Ramos.

“And this is a result of his teaching.”

This was only a few years ago by the way. She didn’t start to create beautiful, lifelike paintings in grade school or even tried it out in college.

Well, she did dabble in painting as a child sort of.

“My mother would buy us coloring books that had the little paint dots already on it and you just dip your brush and water and paint,” Prine remembers. “Well, I loved painting so much I would paint until there was no color left I used so much water. 

“So that was my art as a child, and that was it.”

She literally learned to paint one day and leaned into it, losing count of how many paintings she’s done over the years.

“It’s always fascinated me,” she continued. “And I’ve always been a fan of some type of art.

“When my kids were little, I did a lot of arts and crafts stuff and back in the day when painting on the T-shirts was a big thing, and mine were gorgeous. I would do a lot of details and a lot of projects that nobody would do because they were so labor intensive, but then we quit wearing painted T-shirts, and I never thought to put it on canvas.”

More than paint and canvas

In the Sinton Chamber of Commerce, you can find one painting of Prine’s that she holds especially dear to her heart.

It’s called “Jackie’s Flower” which she had started painting before her sister passed away.

Another painting hanging in the chamber is simply of a chair and a wall which was from a photo taken in the island of Crete in a village called Prines.

“It was my husband’s ancestors way, way back when, who went to the island of Crete, and they helped fight the wars and stuff, and the village was named after them,” Prine said. “We didn’t know it until the first time he was on the island before he met me, and he got into some of the history after he saw the name.

“So that’s where the chair came from was a photo that he took.”

Art works

When it was time for the chamber to look into creating something different to draw in tourists, Chamber Director Lesly Sence knew about Prine’s artwork and thought she’d be a perfect fit.

“We want to promote the arts here finally, because there is no art in this community,” Sence said. “There’s a lot of artists, but there’s nowhere for them to shine or to express themselves and have something for them here.

“There’s a lot to do here and having the arts is a big part of a community of tourism that people want to come from all over to see.

“And it’s not just about paintings; it’ll be photographers and sculptors, and we can get pillars and put sculptures in here.

“We have big dreams, and you know I want to be just as well established as Rockport with their art community.”

Prine added, “We do want to bring in a lot of other local artists so we are looking for artists and we’d love to see their work. If they don’t have a whole lot that’s OK. It doesn’t have to be about one artist at a time. You know, we’ve got three big walls and a couple of little walls, we can put up several artists.”

The new medium

Prine hasn’t painted in quite some time.

She said that at her home there’s no place to set up, due to the heavy odor of turpentine and the oil paints themselves.

But that doesn’t mean she has stopped creating all together.

“I’m actually trying to teach myself a new medium,” Prine said. “And while people look at it kind of funny, like, colored pencils, how childish, when you see some of the stuff that is done with colored pencils it’s amazing. 

“So I’m working on teaching myself that, wishing I had Javier to help me.”

Paul Gonzales is the editor at the News of San Patricio and can be reached at 361-364-1270 or at mathisnews@mySouTex.com.