By: Gabriel Diego Delgado
In a recently renovated artist studio, Boerne artist Jay Hester is surrounded by his art, Civil War memorabilia and documentary references of oil & gas tycoon, George P. Mitchell. Hester is about to take a larger than life size clay sculpture of the ‘Grandfather of Fracking’ to the foundry to be cast in bronze, to be placed at the entrance of Texas A&M University in Galveston.
His reputation precedes him, but his legacy is ever growing. Hester’s history is littered with aspects of evolution – reshaping the city of Boerne and its art community.
After retiring as a Gallerist in 2013, Hester has been busy ever since. Reflecting his commanding personality, a mix of Wild Western cowboy charm and focused artist, Hester’s studio is full of activity with several large commissions. He touts new gallery representation and chairs multiple advisory positions, all the while balancing his coveted studio time.
Nowadays, it’s hard to catch up with Hester, one of the original working professional artists of Boerne, to discuss the various projects, commissions and events that paved the road for such successes.
“Boerne’s population was less than 5,000 when my wife, Judy and I moved here from Lubbock in 1988. Boerne had one gallery that closed before we got here…Bill Zaner was the only other professional artist in the area as we began to explore the art community”, says Hester.
Jay Hester’s wife Judy has been a steady muse, support and inspirational partner in Hester’s lifelong pursuit of a tremendously successful career in the Fine Arts. The backbone of the administrative side of his studio operations, she provides great insight and historical information.
“Before Jay established his studio on Main Street, he had a small studio in a log building located off of Frederick Street in Boerne. He began teaching a few classes and it was there that he was commissioned by USAA to do several paintings for the Zaragosa Theater at Six Flags in San Antonio, along with bronze sculpture for several executive offices, which included a sculpture of Charles Lindberg for General McDermott”, she says.
As many Boerne-ites know, Jay Hester is the artist that designed and fabricated the bronze bust statue that sits atop the limestone marker on the Veterans’ Memorial at the city of Boerne Veteran’s Park.
“In 1992 Jay presented his idea for enhancing the significance of the Veteran's Park. Eventually, several veterans worked together with Jay to make this dream a reality and the unveiling of the bronze cap took place on Veteran's Day 1993”, says Judy.
Fast forward a few years and things really begin to form, not only for the Boerne Art Community, but for Hester as well.
“In 1994 Jay had an opportunity to buy the historic Kaiser/Oxley house. This limestone residence with adjoining property at 904 S. Main Street was converted to Jay Hester Studio/Gallery. The garage became classroom space and a sculpture studio was built a few years later,” continues Judy.
With an established reputation and calling Boerne home for about six years, Hester’s professional connections, networking and city acknowledgement brought much needed progress.
“It was at this studio that the first concept of the now coined ‘Parade of Artists’ began as an open house/studio tour at the request of then Mayor Patrick Heath”, says Hester.
This first open studio tour was the catalyst that brought about change, the event that planted the seed to help grow the arts environment. As Hester’s prominence grew in Boerne, he became the go-to guy for other artists as well as the City of Boerne.
Judy explains how it seemingly all got started. “Mayor Heath invited Jay, along with a select group of performing and visual artists, to gather at his studio to discuss a formal Arts Council for Boerne. After eighteen months a 501 C3 was established and the Cibolo Council for the Arts began. Years later it became known as the Hill Country Council for the Arts, representing various art organizations. During this time, Jay met with several other professional artists to organize the Boerne Area Art Association.”
Now with over 50 artists and regional associations and members, the Boerne Area Art Association morphed into the present day Boerne Professional Artist (BPA) Association.
Under Hester’s supervision, guidance and initiative, the members of the BPA formed an invitational art exhibition originally exhibiting at the Tapatio Springs Hill Country Resort & Spa. Starting with only 25 artists exhibiting, the fall event grew to over 40 artists with the help of Jay Hester and other board members.
Going back to Hester’s own artistic lineage, the year 1997 brought another large scale commissioned sculpture; this time outside of Boerne, expanding his credentials to Fredericksburg, Texas. To commemorate the 150 year anniversary of the city of Fredericksburg, Hester was commissioned to create a sculpture depicting the arranged treaty between the Comanche Indians and the German settlers of Fredericksburg. "Lasting Friendship" is three heroic size bronze sculptures located at the Marktplatz in the center of Fredericksburg, a testament to Hester’s dedication to the history of the West and Texas.
Eventually Jay Hester sold his Main Street property, but the studio was replaced with a hundred year old structure directly next to his own house on Highland Street. Circa 2000-2002 Hester did extensive renovations to the property and opened Highland House Art Gallery. He took on other local artists for representation, allowing the gallery to not only represent his own work, but that of others from the Boerne area, and eventually added private art classes and workshops.
“During his years in Boerne, Jay has served on the Main Street Design Committee, Hotel/Motel Tax Advisory Board, and as an officer/chairman of various committees of the BPA, as well as operating Highland House Gallery for over ten years”, reminiscences Judy.
Highland House Gallery officially closed its doors in 2013 as Hester decided to spend more of his energy on his own art and commissions.
A full list of exhibitions from Hester’s career are too numerous to mention, but a spotlight of his curated selections from 2003-2008 include gallery representation at Mountain Trails Gallery in both Santa Fe and Jackson Hole, as well as Mountain Spirit Gallery in Prescott, Arizona.
“More recently, Sage Creek and Worrell Gallery in Santa Fe have represented his art work. He has been a part of Brookwood Gallery near Houston and Hannah Gallery in Fredericksburg, as well as local galleries. For several years, Jay, along with Bill Scheidt and Sidney Sinclair, attended the Phippen Memorial Day Show in Prescott, AZ,” says Judy.
In addition to his local gallery, Texas Treasures Fine Art, Hester continues to support the Museum of Western Art in Kerrville and will be attending the "Traveling the West" Show in Dallas at Southwest Gallery.
As he concludes the final touches on the large clay sculpture before the casting, Hester speaks of an affinity and respect of his subject. Judy interjects and adds valuable insight into Hester’s personal history with the Mitchell family and their support of his art.
“The family of George Mitchell commissioned Jay to do a sculpture for the Woodlands, a planned community near Houston, of its founder. It was installed in 1997 which led to a commission of Cynthia Woods Mitchell in 2001. Both pieces are near the pavilion named in her honor. A few years later, Jay was asked to sculpt a heroic sized standing figure of Mr. Mitchell to be placed in Town Green Park overlooking the Woodlands Waterway. It was presented to Mr. Mitchell by the Woodlands Development Company and was unveiled in 2008 at a ceremony in his honor."
However, this current depiction of the young cadet who will grow up to be a leading figure in the oil and gas industry is the first sculpture to be completed in Jay's new studio.
As the looming figure on his metal armature base gazes out to the unforeseen distance, contemplating the uncertain future of Boerne and the Hill Country, we take comfort in knowing Jay Hester is still calling Boerne home and has more visions of city collaborations, art exhibitions and large scale sculptures.
Article reprinted from the August edition of Plumage-TX Magazine