- Written by Sheryl Smith-Rodgers
- Published Jan. 20, 2015
Pam Jernigan had no idea she had any creative talent until she stepped into the Textile Studio at Uptown Blanco, a dining and cultural arts complex on the Blanco square.
"I don't draw, paint or sculpt," Jernigan says. "I live in Georgetown, but I drive here because of the ladies who work and teach in the studio." Since taking up quilting a few years ago, Jernigan has branched out to designing and sewing quilted pieces that rival fine art. For example, one creation embodies a friend's garden in Colorado, complete with snow-topped mountains, towering pines, and a footpath bordered with colorful blooms.
Textile studio director Andrea Meegan assists Jernigan with fabric choices and stitching patterns. "Working with our customers is what we do best," she says.
Making people happy and enhancing their lives–ask any of the directors at Uptown Blanco, and they'll agree that those two goals rank among their top work-related priorities. "We want to create relationships," says Ryan Humes, food and beverage director. "We love to work one on one with our customers and clients."
The story behind Uptown Blanco dates back to 1999 when Renee Benson, a native San Antonian with long-time ranching roots in Blanco County, purchased two historic buildings on the west side of Blanco's square. Then she began to envision and formulate a master plan for her long-term project, which she named Uptown Blanco Arts and Entertainment. With time, Benson purchased more property until she owned the entire block, which included the town's old movie theater built in 1938.
After seven years of planning, renovation, and construction, Benson opened her first business in December 2006. Right away, Uptown Blanco Restaurant drew raves for its upscale atmosphere and fine dining menu. In August 2010, the Art Center opened followed by the Textile Studio in December 2013.
"The Textile Studio has taken off and grown in leaps and bounds," says Carolyn Zbytovsky, Uptown Blanco's general manager who offices in a renovated 1873 rock house on Third Street. "In fact, our next project will be to expand the studio with additional workshop space."
Additional plans call for a community theater and a tavern with local and regional beers and wines. Renovations continue on both buildings that will house the future businesses. In the meantime, Uptown Blanco Arts and Entertainment has plenty happening nearly every day.
Ryan Humes, who joined Uptown last July, oversees the restaurant in addition to the Courtyard and Ballroom. The Courtyard–landscaped with its grassy lawns, Victorian gazebo, and large koi pond–is available for weddings, concerts, and community events. Likewise, the upstairs Ballroom–elegantly furnished with gold accents and a mirrored wall–may be rented for special occasions. The space also hosts the Blanco Performing Arts Concert Series.
"Uptown Blanco is such a beautiful location, and we offer many services in one place," Humes says. "As a wedding venue, we have a wedding planner and photographers on staff. We can host rehearsal dinners in our private dining room and special bridal parties, like a 'Sip and Create' workshop at the Art Center. Clients are only limited by their imagination."
At the restaurant, "we serve $7.95 and $8.95 week-day lunch specials, which we post on Facebook," Humes says. "Our chef has a Creole background so seafood is his forte. We've given him the green light to be more creative in the kitchen. Some of our recent specials, which customers love, have been shrimp and tilapia fettuccine with clam sauce and shrimp ravioli with shrimp Creole sauce."
The Arts Center
Housed in a 1930s former hotel later converted into a home, the Art Center offers creative workshops, custom framing, a consignment gallery, retail art supplies for sale, and a small resource library.
"We're super excited about our gallery room, which features more than 10 artists," says Art Center director Olivia Tacker. "Our art for sale includes pottery, glass-fused jewelry, hand-dyed scarves, dream-catchers handmade with vintage doilies, acrylic and oil paintings, 3-D mixed media artwork, and folk art."
A wide variety of workshops range from ceramics and watercolor painting to stained glass and glass-bead making. Participants in the popular "Sip and Create" workshop," hosted monthly and also by private reservations, sip wine and paint their own canvases, all verbally guided by a professional artist ($40 fee covers wine and supplies).
The Art Center also reaches out to children with summer camps and evening classes. "T-N-T" youth programs, held after school Tuesdays and Thursdays, run two hours long. At a recent session, assistant director Kristen Hennessey welcomed elementary-aged kids and younger with popcorn and their ceramic "taco fish," ready to be painted.
The Textile Studio
Rich textures and bold colors blanket the walls, floor, and even high ceiling at the Textile Studio, housed in the 1908 Cage building (formerly Lindeman's Grocery). Repurposed wood from the floor and ceiling were used to construct the striking floor-to-ceiling cabinetry that hold fabric samples, books, and other items.
"We're a quilt shop on steroids!" director Andrea Meegan says. "In addition to all styles of quilt fabrics, we sell textile paints, yarns, embroidery floss, thread, and sewing notions."
Besides quilting, Meegan and her staff advise and teach customers about other needlework skills, such as sewing, knitting, and appliqués. Assistant manager Sharon Romero is a crochet and knitting expert. When one recent customer brought in a knitted shawl she'd been working on, everyone crowded around and offered suggestions on how to repair a dropped stitch.
A section of the shop provides teaching and work space with sewing machines and tabletops. Weekly and monthly workshops range from basic quilting to doll making, using fabric paints, appliqués, and other fun activities. December workshops will celebrate the holidays with classes on making folded-star ornaments, vintage shirt tale aprons, Christmas tree wall hangings, and Christmas stockings.
The second weekend each October, the Textile Studio hosts an annual Blanco Quilt Show that continues to grow in popularity.
For more information on any and all textile and art workshops, not to mention restaurant menus and specials, check out Uptown Blanco Arts and Entertainment on Facebook and UptownBlanco.com. At this unique complex, creativity rules!
WHO, WHEN, WHERE
Uptown Blanco Arts & Entertainment
Monday-Wednesday: 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Thursday-Friday: 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 5-9 p.m.
Saturday: 8 a.m.-3 p.m., 5-9 p.m.
Sunday: 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
Art Center hours
Tuesday-Friday: noon to 8 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Textile Studio hours
Monday-Saturday: 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Friday: 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m.