Above: Conroe Art League member and past President, Brett Hall, participating in school Career Day.

We receive much correspondence from artists, collectors, and societies. In this letter, Debra Riley, Gallery Manager / Conroe Art League, shares with us the story of how “one little decision” forever altered her life, and the lasting impact of a handful of artists in the 1960’s.

Dear Mr. Rhoads,

I have been a follower of yours for quite some time. My Sunday morning always starts off with your Sunday Coffee With Eric Rhoads and my week is filled with articles, emails, and videos from your different publications. You recently ran an article about Charles and Mary Peterson, art collectors, in your Fine Art Connoisseur magazine.

The Petersons are long time friends of mine. Mary and I have been “painting buddies” since our first painting lessons less than 10 years ago. Shortly after we started painting I saw an advertisement for a plein air painting workshop with Lori McNee in Giverny at Monet’s Garden. Mary and I immediately, without giving it any thought, signed up! We then realized we had never painted plein air before so we quickly enrolled in a workshop by Suzie Baker so that we would be prepared to paint in France! That workshop with Suzie Baker and the trip to France with Lori McNee, was the beginning of lifetime change for Mary and I. It still amazes me how one little decision can forever alter your life.

Debra Riley’s first Plein air painting workshop with Suzie Baker. CAL now has a active Plein Air Painting Group that meets monthly.

My life has been enriched dramatically through painting. Lessons led to workshops that lead to travel that eventually led me to the Conroe Art League (CAL) where I now serve on the Executive Board and work as the part-time Gallery Manager. I want to tell you about the impact a handful of artists in the 1960’s has had, even to this day.

In the spring of 1963, seven artists with an interest in fine art met at a Conroe, TX home with a mission in mind. They felt like “art was going down the tube” and they wanted to uphold the integrity of fine art so on March 7, 1963 they formed the Conroe Art League. The members of this league had a goal to promote fine art and make it meaningful in the lives of others.

In 2007 the members came together to submit the group’s first proposal to the City of Conroe for a permanent gallery space in downtown Conroe. In 2010 the City began renovations on the historic 100 year old Madeley Building and the Conroe Art League was selected as the primary tenant.

The home of Conroe Art League – the historic Madeley Brothers building in downtown Conroe, TX.

The Conroe Art League now has over 300 members and are very proud of their downtown gallery known locally as the Gallery at the Madeley Building. Those seven artists in 1963 created what is now a thriving arts community that offers monthly member shows, special exhibits, weekly classes for children and adults, a student awards show and annual fundraiser, a spring and fall judged show, and a national art competition that has drawn up to 700 entries from all across the nation.

CAL has been awarded grants from the City of Conroe, Texas Commission on the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts. We successfully applied for and were awarded $50,000 from the NEA CARES program to assist our teaching artists during this time of COVID 19. The entire $50,000 is being passed on to our teaching artists so that homeschool children’s programs, after school programs, and adult weekday and weekend classes can continue during this pandemic.

Part of our community outreach – a presentation to Magnolia High School art students.

CAL offers many outreach programs to the community and has a diverse and talented membership that work in a large variety of mediums. There are groups for plein air painting, still life painting, ceramics, portrait painting, drawing, sketching from life, urban sketching, etc.

Best of Show presentation at the CAL National juried show. The 6th Annual CAL National will be held in March 2021.

We have nationally recognized artists and emerging artists in our membership as well as beginning artists. Members include: Gary Hernandez, Juan Cantavella, Tom LaRock (Joshua LaRock’s father), Sara Moons, and Brett Hall (portraits of native Americans from the national archives) and many more.

CAL holds weekly classes for children as well as adults and special workshops throughout the year.
The beautiful CAL Gallery at the Madeley. A new exhibition is shown each month.
The gallery courtyard used for monthly artist receptions, private events, classes, and social gatherings. Each quarter a member’s art is enlarged into an outdoor banner and hung in the gallery then later donated to an area non-profit.

We are a non-profit organization almost completely staffed by volunteers. I would love your audience to hear this story as proof that even a small handful of artists can have a positive impact of their community and that art truly does bring people together. Next time you are in the Houston area, I invite you to make your way to Conroe and let me show you around our beautiful gallery in the historic Madeley building.

Debra Riley
Gallery Manager
Conroe Art League


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