The desert flower art gallery in Big Spring Texas is special.
A desert flower gallery. That sounds like an oxymoron. But it isn’t.
A desert flower is any plant that survives in a harsh environment; a cactus is a desert flower. And the Sonoran desert has thousands of species of desert flowers. Some are quite small, just a couple of inches across. Others are huge, up to ten feet across.
So a gallery where we show desert flowers would be an obvious place. But if you think about it, a desert flower gallery is not so obvious. You can’t have a desert flower gallery in a place that is never hot, and a desert flower gallery isn’t like a garden full of pretty flowers. It isn’t easy to get people to look at desert flowers.
You have to start by making a trip to Arizona. There are only a few desert flower galleries, and the ones in Arizona are in Arizona. The gallery in Big Spring, Texas, is the first one in Texas, and the closest gallery to Austin.
In the arid southwest, water is scarce. Most people get their water from the tap. Even the wells are dry.
But there are also places in the desert where water flows freely from underground springs. The springs are invisible; they spring up out of the ground, and you don’t even know they are there. But as you drive across the desert, you can see their neat little terraces of green.
The plants in the little garden on the terraces are tiny and weird, with names like yucca, ocotillo, prickly pear, jojoba, and mesquite. They grow like weeds, and they grow fast.
Before the library opened, there was only one museum in Big Spring. The Museum of the Big Spring Historical Society was on the second floor of the Big Spring National Bank building downtown. Its collection consisted of a few casts of dinosaur bones, some Indian artifacts, and some old oil rags and bottles.
In 1960, the library board began searching for a new location. The library director, John Hay, had grown up in Big Spring and was familiar with its needs. The town’s population had grown from 5,000 to 13,000 since 1960, so more space was needed. The library also needed more room for its growing book collection, and it needed someplace for meetings and programs.
The library board agreed on two things: the library should be downtown, and it should have a large meeting space. They couldn’t agree on much else, so they invited architects to tour the downtown core. They picked a site that had been the original drugstore, sitting between the Big Spring National Bank and the city jail. A building was slated to be built on it, but the architect persuaded the board that it would be better to tear down the building and put a library there. The board agreed, and hired an architect to design the new building.
The library board also hired an architectural firm to design the meeting room. They chose a site across the street from the library, which already looked like the “other” half of the old drugstore, except it was one story instead of two, and that the building had been a restaurant instead of a bank.