Inside The Cove: A look at McKinney’s innovative art collective

The Cove is one of the city’s most unique exhibition spaces and will host The Art Club of McKinney’s Annual Member Art Show on March 17 and 18.

The Cove McKinney
One of The Art Club of McKinney’s past shows at The Cove – Pictures courtesy of Beth Mortenson

It’s an exhibition space with moving walls, a refuge for artists displaced by the pandemic, the host of The Art Club of McKinney’s upcoming show and the one-time parking garage for a pizza van all rolled into one. In short, The Cove is one of the most unique spaces in McKinney, and it’s free to visit almost every weekend.

The Cove, an Arts and Music Guild initiative that provides its members a low-cost opportunity to showcase their work in a gallery setting, has been hosting free-to-attend weekend exhibitions since July 2016.

“The Cove is a beautiful place,” Arts and Music Guild Executive Director Annie Royer said, noting that the inventive features of the “little warehouse” have turned it into a space that some artists feel spotlight their work even better than fancy galleries. “A person can mount a show, and they have 16 walls to work with that are moveable, so they can put it in any configuration. We move the lights around and it’s just wonderful.”

The Cove even features a garage door, something which came in handy when an artist asked if they could show off the Italian scenes they had painted on a van for their friend’s pizza delivery and catering business.

“I said, ‘If you can drive that in, absolutely,’ so we had a van in The Cove,” Royer said.

Royer added that The Cove’s beauty and customizability were a huge asset during the COVID-19 pandemic, which had created many struggles in the local art community.

“It was so hard to watch artists in 2020 have such a hard time selling their work or getting their work in front of the public,” Royer said, adding that The Cove shut down in mid-March that year. “Artists lost studio space because they could no longer pay their rent in Downtown McKinney.”

Royer explained that she was grateful to be working as a nurse at the time and thus able to keep steady work throughout the pandemic. It wasn’t long after The Cove shut down that she decided to put her skills to use to help continue to support McKinney’s artists then.

Royer helped The Cove reopen in June of that year, personally ensuring the exhibitions followed COVID-19 safety guidelines. She believes The Cove produced 34 shows that year as a result, with artists coming up with creative ways to help show their work to those who were isolating during the pandemic.

“So, what people did during COVID at The Cove, they would hang their show – it would look beautiful – and they would then put a video of it online on their Facebook or Instagram,” Royer said, detailing how artists narrated videos walking social media followers through the exhibition they designed. “One artist sold work at The Cove…before the show even opened. It didn’t matter who showed up or not.”

The profit from sales at The Cove go directly to the artist as well. The Cove doesn’t take a commission or sign its member artists to a contract.

Now, in 2023, The Cove continues to be an asset to the city’s vibrant art community, hosting a number of exciting exhibitions in its distinctive space. That includes hosting The Art Club of McKinney’s Annual Member Art Show on March 17 and 18.

“The Cove has always been a friend to the art club,” The Art Club of McKinney President Beth Mortenson said, explaining that the club has similarly worked hard to be a collaborative force in the community.

The show will take advantage of The Cove’s flexibility to create a unique exhibition space for the 30 to 40 artists submitting pieces for judging.

The Cove McKinney
A look at a bit of the design of a past show at The Cove from The Art Club of McKinney

“We pull out panels that are on wheels, and they get set up almost in like a zigzag pattern down the center of both of the rooms so that people can see both sides, the front side and the back side” Mortenson said.

Mortenson describes the show as the once-a-year opportunity for the club’s members to showcase their best work.

“It’s usually quite a good show because The Art Club of McKinney members prepare throughout the year thinking of what their best pieces are,” Mortenson said.

She notes that the show is free and open to the public, much like the other shows at The Cove, with complimentary refreshments offered for those to attend.

The upcoming show will therefore mark just another example of how The Cove has become an innovative space for McKinney’s artists to spotlight their work.

“There’s no place like it,” Royer said.

The Cove is located at 402 N. Tennessee St., McKinney, Texas 75069. The Art Club of McKinney’s Annual Member Art Show will take place there on March 17 and 18 from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Visit for more information.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.