Arts center cancels events?

SAN BENITO — After 26 years, questions surround the Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center’s future with the city.

A week after Rogelio Nuñez, the arts center’s founder, called off the Conjunto Festival, it appears all of the events are canceled, too.

Yesterday, Nuñez declined comment.

But Juan Lugo, the center’s longtime accordion instructor, said the events have been canceled.

“It’s all canceled — everything,” Lugo said yesterday.

Lugo said he plans to teach his accordion lessons at another location.

“We’ll see what happens in the future,” Lugo said.

At City Hall, officials were apparently unaware of the center’s canceling of events.

“The City has received no communication from the Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center since they cancelled the festival,” city spokeswoman Martha McClain stated.

The event’s cancelation led supporters to question the center’s future with the city.

“It’s disheartening to me that we have to lose something before we realize how valuable it is to the community,” Brenda Nettles Riojas, a longtime member of the center’s Writer’s Forum, said.

Since it opened 26 years ago, she said, the center has given local artists a stage on which to showcase their work.

“The Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center and its volunteers have given space for artists of all genres,” said Nettles Riojas, spokeswoman for the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville. “It’s an integral part of that community.”

Last week, Nuñez said the center canceled the annual festival after negotiations with the city broke down.

Nuñez had told city commissioners he would cancel the three-day festival if the city did not reduce its request for $17,365 in fees, significantly higher amounts than it charged in previous years.

The city, which it said it would charge to help cover costs associated with holding the event, stated Nuñez did not respond to its offer to reduce fees to $7,000.

Meanwhile, the center’s $1-a-year lease on the city’s old library building, which has served as the center’s headquarters for about 22 years, expired two years ago.

“I don’t know where the relationship with the city of San Benito will end,” Nuñez stated last week.

Now, the city is drafting new contracts for organizations leasing city-owed buildings, city spokeswoman Martha McClain said.

“The city is preparing an agreement for all entities that use city-owned facilities,” McClain stated. “The timeline for presentation of the agreement is unknown at this time.”

Last week, Nuñez said the center is discussing staging its Conjunto Festival in other cities including Brownsville, Los Fresnos, Weslaco, McAllen and South Padre Island.

At the same time, the city is considering holding a music event to raise money for its coming museum complex, McClain stated.