Arts and the Man | Executive director reflects on tenure at TRAHC

Brian Goesl has been at the center of Texarkana’s arts and culture scene for roughly two decades, but that will soon change.Leaving his post as executive director of the Texarkana Regional Arts and Humanities Council gives him a chance to pause and reflect as he and TRAHC both move forward.

Goesl will retire at the end of the month with TRAHC’s current education director, Jennifer Unger, taking over as interim boss while a search for a permanent director is underway.

“It’s been an absolute privilege to be able to work at TRAHC and with other non-profits and working with the community. It really has. And then as ED, that’s only been the icing on the cake,” Goesl said.

He’s guided the agency through its successes and challenges since 2008, having taken over the position after directing TRAHC’s community and outreach programs. He started at TRAHC in 1999.

Looking back on his tenure, Goesl points to several particular projects that he’s appreciated and of which he’s proud, but promoting arts education, enhancing downtown, overseeing Perot Theatre improvements and reaching young students are some areas he singles out when he reflects.

In this 2017 Gazette file photo, Texarkana Regional Arts and Humanities Council Executive Director Brian Goesl tells what plays and events are coming to the Perot Theatre.

“I think we’ve accomplished a lot. I’ve been executive director for a little over 13 years,” Goesl said, who points to several downtown arts-related projects where he provided leadership.

It’s a long list of work that have improved downtown’s appearance and fortunes.

The Heritage Gateway Project, establishment of an arts and historic district, recognition of that district as an official cultural district by the Texas Commission on the Arts, the redesign of the Scott Joplin mural, banners and planters downtown, the new George Tobolowsky exhibit and purchase of two sculptures (one in Spring Lake Park, another at Texas City Hall), the design and creation of the ArtSparK and its Art Wall, the mosaic art wall — they’re just some of the projects during his tenure, he said.

“Those were all pretty significant, I think,” Goesl said.

Then there’s regular upkeep and maintenance at the Perot Theatre, where TRAHC oversaw the downtown gem’s welfare for many years. TRAHC will soon pass those duties on to the Texarkana Symphony Orchestra at the start of September.

But from handrail installation, balcony steps improvements, carpet replacement, installation of a TV security system to aisle lighting additions, a new sound system installation with headset upgrades and more, the Perot saw many improvements.

“We purchased a digital projector for concerts and movies,” Goesl said. “We initiated new safety equipment for the workers. We started ghost tours.”

While ticket sales for TRAHC’s annual series of shows at the Perot Theatre dropped, TRAHC retooled the series to shorten it and also provide additional forms of entertainment there, such as movies. The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t help matters, either, but they persevered.

“We still continued with the Perot Theatre Holiday Traditions. We did that again this past year,” Goesl said. “Those kinds of things, I think, are important that we did.”

The Perot was developed so it could be the top tourism destination for Texarkana tourism on the Internet, he said. Free tours were continued, too.

“I think that’s pretty significant for downtown,” Goesl said. “Just the redevelopment of downtown and economic development of downtown.”

Patti and Brian Goesl are seen in this file submitted photo.

TRAHC worked with the cities, Texarkana Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Texarkana, Texarkana Symphony Orchestra and Texarkana Museums System on that downtown effort.

“We all worked very, very hard to make that come to fruition because 10 years ago downtown Texarkana didn’t look like this,” Goesl said. “Eight years ago it didn’t look like this.”

This includes not only bringing tourists downtown, but also providing elements of entertainment and other reasons for the community to come downtown, too, he said.

Arts on Main and establishment of classes there, expansion of the Adult Juried Exhibition to go from a national show to international one, installation of an ADA ramp and entrance to the Regional Arts Center, new flooring in the galleries and a kitchen redesign — they’re some of the other projects accomplished.

The RAC saw other upgrades, too, on its historic structure.

“Cabe Hall got repainted, all of the air conditioning units got replaced,” Goesl said. “We changed the color of the exterior trim to green, which was much more traditional along the lines of the historical color for the building.”

TRAHC did all of this, he said.

“Now I didn’t do all of it by myself, obviously,” Goesl said, “but a lot of it was under my initiative and then working with the community, working with other non-profits.”

With TRAHC’s education wing — ArtsSmart — their reach has grown with programs like a Kennedy Center partnership and working with other nonprofits. The Perot is not all that TRAHC does, he said. It’s also education.

“That began to change really under Ruth Ellen Whitt’s tutelage, and I continued that,” Goesl said.

When Goesl considers his favorite moments while working at the Arts Center, the Perot and elsewhere on the job, he points to a particular exhibit, “Date with Diana,” a collection of Princess Diana memorabilia, such as dresses and gowns.

“We literally had thousands of people come through,” Goesl recalled. “We had bus tours that came through to see that, so I have to say that was a major event for us.”

Or his work on public art, getting sculpture like Tobolowsky’s works to become a part of the Texarkana landscape. Or the murals, he said.

“Just look at the number of murals that have been created in the last year-and-a-half,” he said. They’re great memories he’ll treasure.

Although Jump, Jive and Jam ended, the eight years of that downtown arts festival provided plenty of good times, too — if it didn’t rain, he said. Kids playing in the ArtSparK, buses of students unloading — they’re incredible memories.

But other aspects to his TRAHC time will also forever be on his mind.

“It’s also been a privilege,” Goesl said about the Regional Arts Center, where his office is. “I walk through this building as I get ready to go home, and it’s a privilege to be in this building. It’s truly a magnificent building.”

He appreciates the impact the arts have on children who experience downtown parks, for example.

“Those kinds of things where we worked with people in the community, those things are important,” Goesl said. “And finally, we had plenty of art experiences as far as classes, as far as exhibits, and we’ve always wanted artists to live downtown. That’s been a major goal of ours.”

What’s Goesl going to do to enjoy his retirement? He might make art, for one thing.

“Honestly, I’m going to get a lot of projects done that I’ve wanted to do. I’m obviously very project oriented. I work with my hands a lot. I used to actually be a painter,” Goesl said. “It would be sort of nice to start painting again. I haven’t done that in many years.”

You won’t catch him “working working,” but he will likely volunteer.

Goesl wishes TRAHC well at this new juncture for the arts organization.

“This is a new beginning for TRAHC,” Goesl said. “We’ve been here for 40-plus years, and again everyone has thought that we simply do the Perot Theatre. But ArtsSmart, education has been the foundation of TRAHC long before the 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.

“Those kinds of things, TRAHC will continue to sponsor. Artists will continue to develop. Recognized local and regional artists will continue to have an incredible collection,” Goesl said, adding, “I have no doubt that TRAHC will continue to move on. Absolutely.”


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