In two very short years, a relatively unknown local insurance agent went from writing contracts to not only owning one of the hottest arts and music venues in Wichita Falls, but also facilitating multiple events and participating on boards that make big decisions for local entertainment and reshaping of downtown.
I first met Becky Raeke at the grand opening of her arts haven, 9th Street Studios. The event was a massive success, as has every event she has thrown there since. The space contains five rental spaces, which sold out almost immediately, as well as a large commons area used for special events and an outdoor patio area where several live music events have taken place.
The structure, located on the corner of 9th and Travis, was purchased by Becky’s family in 1992 and was used to house an upholstery business. “I grew up there, sweeping and pulling staples,” reminisced Becky. It was a successful business that many people still remember today. However, the family grew and evolved into the Farmers Insurance Agency that is currently ran from the lower floor. But that large empty space overhead was calling out to Becky, and her mother Linda. They knew there was great potential upstairs.
“It all started with us wanting to do something with the space upstairs.” At first, she thought that putting in some apartments would be a great fit for the space but, as you can imagine, the expense involved in creating 5 apartments in an old building was astounding. She soon had a chance run in with an artist that had just moved to Wichita Falls and was looking for a project of his own. “Stephen pushed us to take that next step,” Becky recalled. Stephen, being a creative person in his own right, was very skilled in structure renovation and, in a short amount of time, made Becky’s vision a reality. In October of 2016 9th Street Studios was open to the public, and Becky Reake was just getting warmed up.
The instant popularity of the new entertainment venue opened several doors for Becky and her vision. She was invited to be on the newly formed planning board for the After Hours Artwalk. Within the first few meetings she was unanimously voted on to head of the committee. Under her leadership, the Artwalk, which not only supports local art but also increases revenue to locally owned downtown businesses, is just this month completing its second successful season.
Her extraordinary success with downtown events, and the relationships gained along the way, landed her a position with Downtown Wichita Falls Development as the merchant relations liaison. This opportunity allows her to pair local artist with businesses to further the growth of downtown aesthetics and events.
This opportunity is not being wasted. Becky says, “when I meet artists I make a mental note of their gifts and try to use them in the future.” This especially rings true with 9th Street Studios resident artists. She tries to use them for local art projects. Examples would include the recent Hotter’n Hell 100 bike art project, After Hours Artwalk open houses, and the annual Los Muertos Festival.
If you didn’t make to last year’s Los Muertos Festival, you need to make the effort to go this year. It boasts a 20-foot-tall seated skeleton couple, professional mariachis, and art and music everywhere to celebrate life and family. Becky explains the idea, “My best friend Alicia owns a property across the street. We talked about doing an event for a while and decided to take the plunge.” Alicia is a Mexican native and has the connection to the local Mexican community and keeps the event true to the culture, while Becky provides the artists to create the colorful visuals and on sight logistics. Together, they create a celebration of life events that welcomes all ethnicities each October.
Raeke seems to have an endless supply of ideas. The 9th Street Studios float for last year’s Christmas parade was, without a doubt, one of the most unique and artistic. She plans on participating again this year. She doesn’t hesitate to credit her family and friends that have helped her along the way.
With all of her involvement, all of her dedication and sacrifice for the arts, and her great successes in the art world, Becky insists that she is not an artist. Her vision is to spread the arts and orchestrate unions that will improve Wichita Falls art and business. To me, that in itself is art.