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The Blue Star Arts Collective Creates Art For San Antonio, A Supportive Home For Its Artists

Laurel Gibson
Paintings depict San Antonio's natural and spiritual worlds.

A group of creatives – mostly women – regularly gather at The Upstairs Studio, above the Brick at Blue Star, in Studio 209. They call themselves the Blue Star Arts Collective, and they’re “dedicated to self-expression for the evolution of the healing of the individual, the society and the world.”

They hold shows every First Friday in their art studio.

The collective was formed in March by Deborah Keller-Rihn, a photographer and educator. She was an individual artist at The Upstairs Studio for more than 20 years, during which she focused on her photography.

Her trips to India ignited her curiosity with Eastern culture. Her work often references sprituality and Hinduism.

Over the past year, the pandemic posed to Keller-Rihn several challenges: There were no showcases, art didn't see and events were canceled.

But she said she was determined not to lose her studio and her creative process, and not let a virus prevent her from sharing her joy of art with others.

Her solution was forming the collective.

Deborah Keller-Rihn

Keller-Rihn explained that these women support each other throughout the creative process. There are 12 artists, so each person has a spot for a single solo show every month. The month of July features photographer Chel Delaney.

Delaney's exhibit, titled “Portraits of Texas,” is an ode to Black women in San Antonio. She collaborated with her friend and painter, Barbara Felix, and captured women of color wearing clothing that represents their cultural histories.

Delaney explained that her exhibit will try to create a personal connection and a bridge between her and the Black women she photographs.

Chel Delaney

She said the “[the Collective] is a community of artists that can grow and support each other,” which is why she joined.

As female artists in a male-dominated world, Delaney said, it is twice as hard to earn recognition for their work.

Painter Laurel Gibson is another artist in the collective. She began painting last year when the lockdown happened, and now every day she paints the natural world throughout the San Antonio area. She said she finds solace in conveying her emotions onto the canvas.

Deborah Keller-Rihn

With only a palette knife, canvas, and acrylic paint, Gibson said she tried to create hard textures “when [she] is feeling overwhelmed and the paintings become more abstract.”

She added that the “color and style reflect how [she] feels.” It’s her therapy, she explained, it didn’t matter to her what other people think of her, as long as she can free herself in her creations.

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Jia Chen is a freelance journalist and photographer for Texas Public Radio. She began with TPR working as the Bexar County selected Summer Arts Intern in 2021. Her coverage includes arts & culture, technology, politics, and more. She holds a BA in Communication from University of Texas at San Antonio and has lived in San Antonio for over 20 years.