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The Vibrant Palette of Rio Grand Valley Arts Studio

Updated: Mar 17

(This article was written by Beth Marie Cantu and was featured in the March 2024 issue of Explore Harlingen Magazine.)

Lori stands in front of a new ballerian-themed mural
Mural at RGVAS. Photo courtesy of RGVAS.

Tucked away toward the end of Jackson Street, the Rio Grand Valley Arts Studio (RGVAS) stands as a hub of culture and creativity, offering a kaleidoscope of enriching activities, a testament to the region's thriving artistic landscape.

Unique in its essence, RGVAS represents a sanctuary for artistic exploration and community engagement, distinguishing itself as the only studio of its kind south of Houston, housing a diverse collection of artistic disciplines under one roof.

Lori Rodgers, the visionary behind RGVAS, embarked on her dance journey at the age of 2, influenced by a neighbor who happened to be a dance instructor and a close friend of her mother. To this day, Lori continues to model herself in her former teacher’s image. "She’s 80 years old and she's still dancing," Lori recalls fondly. "I want to be like [her].”

The journey to establish RGVAS was far from easy. Throughout college, Lori worked to prove herself capable of succeeding as a studio owner, particularly to reassure her father who believed she needed a backup plan. Once she was ready to start her business, her father suggested adding extra artistic opportunities for students as a fail-safe measure. “My dad said… instead of just a strip mall dance studio, we [should] have the backup of karate, art, and music…  in case dance isn’t as popular as the year before.”

Young girl points at her art on display.
Young artist in front of her art. Photo courtesy of RGVAS.

One of the distinctive features of RGVAS is its comprehensive dance program, which encompasses styles including folklorico, jazz, tap, and ballet. Additionally, under the guidance of experienced instructors, RGVAS students can explore different techniques and mediums in art classes. Furthermore, music resonates through the halls of RGVAS, as aspiring musicians embark on a melodic voyage through guitar, piano, voice, and percussion lessons.

Several martial artists stand at attention.
Martial artists. Photo courtesy of RGVAS.

In addition to the arts, RGVAS recognizes the importance of physical wellness and offers martial arts classes for individuals of all ages seeking to cultivate discipline, strength, and self-defense techniques. Soon RGVAS plans to add more fitness opportunities to its list of classes.

Flyer for dance workshop by RGVAS and Allego Ballet
Spring break dance workshop

In an exciting development, RGVAS has embarked on a collaborative venture with Allegro Ballet School, another esteemed studio in the Rio Grande Valley. Led by Mayte Sanchez, Allegro specializes in ballet and competitive dance. Additionally, Allegro boasts a dedicated dance team and performers that have garnered acclaim at regional and national levels.

Through this collaboration, RGVAS and Allegro aim to expand their outreach in the competitive realm, providing students ages 5 and older with a platform to showcase their talent, dedication, and artistry on a broader stage. “It’s so much more than a ribbon… They’re going to get so much more, with the camaraderie that they’re going to have with the students and their peers that they’re going to be competing with… It’s going to bring something fresh to RGVAS.” The RGVAS/Allegro Ballet collaboration kicks off in March during their spring break workshops.

List of classes available at RGVAS
RGVAS Class Schedule

Ultimately, RGVAS stands for the melding of creative minds, a sort of cornerstone for arts in the Harlingen community. Outside groups often use RGVAS as a meeting place for practices and rehearsals. “We have the [Harlingen Community Theatre] that comes and practices, we have the Frontera [Dance Project] that also practices here, and now we have the Ms. South Texas Senior Beauty Pageant contestants also coming in,” Lori proudly acknowledges.

Lori’s advice for adults and seniors, wanting to venture out and try new hobbies? “Just do it,” she says. “Try a new skill. You might not be the most professional or successful at it, but just to try it, you’re going to learn something new every day. And that’s what we’re made to do… Being around the kids, being around the arts, being around that imaginary world keeps us young.”

RGVAS is located at 1025 W. Jackson Street in Harlingen. You can reach them at 956-412-1314.


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