To say that San Antonio philanthropist and artist Linda Pace was a visionary would be a profound understatement. Pace, the co-author of Dreaming Red: Creating ArtPace, a book about the artist-in-residence nonprofit she founded of the same name, did not just bring her dreams to fruition: she sketched them, molded them into three-dimensional sculptures, and even fabricated them as tangible places where artists and art aficionados alike could work and live, and appreciate her personal collection and oeuvre.
Pace dreamed up, sketched, and planted the seeds for Ruby City, a 14,472 square-foot contemporary art center in San Antonio, the city where she resided most of her life. “Ruby City is the sculptural realization of one of her dreams,” said
Kelly O’Connor, who was Pace’s studio assistant and is head of the Linda Pace Foundation’s collections and communications. “She drew it and shared it with our architect, Sir David Adjaye, and he designed this amazing building. I feel like this is the final realization of one of her final artworks.”
In 2003, Pace founded her eponymous Linda Pace Foundation, comprised of her personal and extensive collection of artists’ works. The Foundation operates Ruby City, which, as of July, was slated to open in the fall of 2019 in downtown. Ruby City includes Chris Park, a public one-acre greenspace Pace founded in memory of her 24-year-old son, Chris Goldsbury, who died of a drug overdose in 1997.
O’Connor said her former boss was best known as being what artist Isaac Julian called the artist’s collector. “Her way of collecting was with an artist’s eye,” O’Connor said. “It was very intuitive. She was more concerned about how people experience the art, and that’s one of the big distinguishing factors between Ruby City and other institutions: it evokes a lot of feelings. It’s not so much about being this huge historical art educational tool.”
Pace was born on April 17, 1945, to David Earl Pace, the son of a syrup manufacturer, and Margaret Bosshardt Pace, whose family once owned San Antonio’s Pearl Brewery. The Paces started Pace Foods, perhaps best known for Pace Picante Sauce, which her father called “the maple syrup of San Antonio.” Margaret majored in art in college and helped restore La Villita, a historic settlement along the San Antonio River, but, for the most part, her art took a backseat to her family.
Pace graduated from St. Mary’s Hall High School in 1962 and majored in art at Southern Methodist University before transferring her junior year to the University of Texas at Austin. She told Jan Jarboe Russell in a 2003 Texas Monthly article that her confidence in her art, which she described as being abstract at the time, took a hit when her UT art professor gave her a C for one of her paintings if she promised never to paint again.
“I was devastated and telephoned my mother in San Antonio,” Pace said in the article. “She encouraged me to come home. I took her advice and dropped out of college my senior year. I felt foolish about even thinking of myself as an artist and took the prescribed path: marriage.”
Pace had known Christopher “Kit” Goldsbury since the eighth grade; the two had dated off and on for several years. They married in 1967 and welcomed their first child, daughter Margaret “Mardie,” in 1968. Kit joined the Pace family business in 1969, and Pace decided to give her art education another try, enrolling in Trinity University.
The next eight years were eventful: The Goldsbury welcomed their second child, son Chris; Kit became president of Pace Foods (working for Pace’s mother), and Pace graduated college.
Despite dabbling in art and even teaching her children art at home, Pace found herself following in her mother’s footsteps, and she longed to dedicate more time to her passion. In the meantime, Kit’s running of the family business and answering to Margaret, putting Pace in the middle, took a toll on their marriage.
“Eventually, Kit and I sought psychological counseling for the whole family,” she said. “As a result of what I learned in the counseling sessions, I began to slowly deviate from the family script.”
As Kit and Pace drifted further apart, she began learning dream tending, a process that analyzes dreams as living images. “She kept a pencil and parchment paper at her bedside table. She would write down her dream (when she awoke), and if there was any rich imagery in her dream, she would draw it,” O’Connor said of Pace. “I worked with her to fabricate these sculptures. One of these was the mirrored igloo titled Mirror, Mirror. It was nine feet in diameter and acrylic mirror we cut on a bandsaw in all these swirling patterns.”
Another work of art born from Pace’s dream was a vibrantly colored snake. “The colors were hypnotic; they moved in slow motion,” Pace said. “To me the snake was a reminder of all sorts of things that are necessary to an artist’s life: emotion, mainly, but intuition as well, the kinds of sharp instincts that tell you when to be silent, when to hiss, and when to strike.
“I watched the snake move for what seemed like a long time, until it unexpectedly struck the right side of my head. I had been bitten by what I later came to understand was a lifelong passion for contemporary art. I realized that I would spend the rest of my life fostering my own life as an artist as well as the creativity of others. You could say Artpace San Antonio was born at that moment.”
Pace’s attraction to unconventional, progressive art clashed with Kit’s practical nature, she said, adding, “But mostly I left the marriage because I literally started dreaming about making art and knew that I could not become who I needed to be — an artist, a collector, a patron — unless I grounded my identity in art.”
She settled in the divorce, relinquishing her 50 percent share of Pace Picante Sauce; Kit later sold it to Campbell’s Soup Company for a staggering $1.12 billion. Pace said that even though she did not profit from the deal, she did not have “many regrets.”
Pace founded Artpace, north of Downtown San Antonio, in 1993. According to Ruby City’s website, the program, lauded for fostering art among both veteran and amateur artists, has awarded fellowships to more than 150 artists and brought 200-plus South Texas schools into its exhibition and education programs. Pace, according to the website, described her brainchild as “a laboratory of dreams – my own as well as the artists’.”
Pace began exhibiting as an artist in 1976 (in museums including the San Antonio Museum of Art, the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center in San Antonio, and at a plethora of galleries), but, O’Connor said, she was largely affected early on by outside influences such as her art instructors. “It wasn’t until the mid-‘90s that she really found her voice as an artist,” O’Connor said. “In some respects she was a late bloomer. She would have been 52 when she really started making her best and most remembered work. She had a very formulated process, but there was so much room because of the nature of dreams to have these infinite ideas.”
Pace said in her artist’s statement, found on Ruby City’s website:
“I have always been interested in how the ordinary can become extraordinary. Removed from the familiarity and clutter of everyday life, utilitarian objects can convey an aesthetic power not otherwise imagined, especially when expressed through the transformative process of being rendered into works of art. The poetics of the everyday have been inspired by the realm of dreams and my work to mine the subconscious, where events or memories may acquire a transcendent quality. The drawings are a way to magnify the images that stand out to me in my dreams.”
“…Drawing is a medium I have gravitated toward for its immediacy and spontaneity. It allows me to create imagery that seems to be meaningful. While not imagined as studies for three-dimensional objects, these drawings have occasionally become the basis for sculpture, when the images suggest a need for further exploration beyond the intimate space of drawing.”
The body of work that exemplified what would eventually become her signature style – and showcased her fondness for the color red – started with a piece called Red Project, a 96-by-96-inch assemblage of crimson-colored objects Pace collected and affixed to wooden panels.
Eight years after her only son, Chris’s, death, Pace memorialized him with Chris Park. In addition to areas that blend native and exotic plants, Pace and artist Teresita Fernandez were intentional in designating what Ruby City’s website calls “visual experiences,” including a starfield where pinpricks of light twinkle into the night sky (a manmade duplicate of the constellations on the day Chris was born) and rock benches inscribed with excerpts from his journal.
In 2014, Studio, a 2,000 square-foot gallery, opened inside Chris Park. “We have a collection of about 900 pieces,” O’Connor said. “The collection is made up mostly of other artists. Linda’s work makes up about 50 works in the collection. We continue to acquire new works every year. Depending on the size of the artwork, Studio can accommodate a few or many artworks from the collection.”
Ruby City’s opening will bring 10,000 additional square feet of exhibition space, O’Connor said, allowing about 15 percent of the collection to be on display for rotating exhibits.
Pace was reportedly her granddaughter’s guardian when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Pace died July 2, 2007, but not before sharing with Adjaye the dream she had about Ruby City. “The design you see today was very similar to the one she saw before she passed away,” O’Connor said. “David had the opportunity to sketch initial drawings of the building and share them with Linda, so I think it’s exciting that we were able to stay true to her vision. You can really feel her presence throughout the building.”
Ruby City will continue Pace’s legacy as a tremendous contributor to San Antonio’s vital contemporary art scene, O’Connor said. “This space will be a huge benefit to the community,” she said. “Not only it is it free, but we have community programs throughout the year that (consider) our adjacent neighborhood. Some of our events include music in the park, a free concert in the park twice a year, and an outdoor film series twice a year. Once a year we have a big free family program called Bubble Fest. June  was our third year, and we had over 1,100 attendees, and they were all through organic marketing. There’s a desire for the community to want to engage in these cultural activities.”
“I think that we can only hope she would be pleased” about Ruby City’s impending grand opening, O’Connor continued. “I feel so good about how it was executed.”
O’Connor was Pace’s registrar of her collection before she became her studio assistant. “When I worked for her, I was only 23 years old; I was pretty naive to how amazing this opportunity was,” she said. “Now that I look back and reflect, I think it’s amazing how much she trusted me. She never micromanaged me. She let me try to figure it out, and sometimes I would fail, but I learned from those mistakes. She was just a wonderful mentor, and I really grew during that experience with her.”
O’Connor said she has never met another person as poignant about their vision as Pace. “She put this amazing idea in motion, and we were able to see it through,” she said. “It’s amazing to see someone have a desire to do something so big and put everything into place for others to carry out.”
Pace said as much in her own words four years prior to her death, as she reflected on flipping the script of her life and eschewing societal norms to – quite literally – live out her dreams. “I made a good deal myself,” she said, referencing her ex-husband’s billion-dollar sale of Pace Foods. “The script I am living is finally my own.”