Paula Horner finds beauty in all places she travels. And she works tirelessly to ensure that you have the opportunity to view the same beauty.
As the President of the Hill Country Council for the Arts, Horner has spent a career ensuring that art and beauty are presented to you in as many ways as possible. Having been forcefully relocated to the area due to Hurrican Katrina from New Orleans, Horner has quickly integrated herself into the arts community locally, and her impact will be felt by generations.
“I grew up in New Orleans. I was raised on the right street on the wrong side of the tracks,” Horner laughs as she begins her story. “I was raised in public schools when you actually got a fine education in a public school. Mom was the manager of a private school bookstore, and my Dad was an accountant. Mom was the person completely responsible for my love of art. She had nothing more than a high school education like many in those days, but I grew up with a wall of prints and cards that had been framed from art books that she would buy and bring home. That’s how I learned about the “masters” and she took us to all the plays and symphonies and ballet and just crammed my sister and I full of an appreciation for the arts. When it was naptime she threw an art book in the bed and said “Take a nap or look at the pictures” and that’s how I was thrown into the art interests.”
Raised with a strong mother that had influenced her into believing that she could do anything she put her mind toward, Horner graduated high school and enrolled at the University of New Orleans. She continues, “The plan was to get a really great job after college and be the manager of my own company some day – I had no idea what the company would be, but I just wanted to be master of my domain.” However, after the 1st year of college, Horner left college work with an oil company. “I was very impressed with having a salary and making a pretty good wage in the early 70s for someone with no degree. I had money that none of my friends had and so I thought I was doing pretty well.”
She quickly was picked up by the Ingram Corporation, which was the 5th largest privately held energy company in the world. “It was such a wonderful place to work. Whatever resources they needed, they bought. I worked with them for years and was introduced to the law department there, and absolutely fell in love with the law. They hired me and I spent the next 23 years as a paralegal; 10 years at Ingram Corporation and 13 at Adams and Reese Law Firm. I was always drawn to the community service program at Ingram and volunteered several days a week after hours for various causes.”
At the same time, Horner volunteered three days per week at the New Orleans Museum of Art. “I went in as a volunteer and I was always drawn to their community service work.
Richard (Horner’s husband) worked in the petroleum transportation division at Ingram. Shortly after joining Adams to work for the Managing Partner she was called into his office one day, and he said, “Us lawyers have a bad rap– people don’t like us — so I want you to creat a Community Service program that the lawyers can donate to, and allows our staff to get out and do the work. H.U.G.S. was created for all the wrong reasons, but got me into the community service side of business, and I found that I loved it. Within the first five years of the program, we were awarded President George H. W. Bush’s Five Points of Light Foundation award.”
Ingram Corp was dissolved which allowed the duo to recalibrate their careers. Horner continues, “I became paralegal to Adams’ Managing Partner, and Richard was invited to join a start-up petroleum transportation business in Houston, AHL Shipping Company. At the end of those eight years, Richard’ partner wanted to return to semi retirement, so Richard took over as President/CEO and moved the business to New Orleans.”
With Richard home, Horner was able to cease working and instead went back to school and took a part time job at the New Orleans Museum of Art in their education department. Ultimately getting both her undergrad and master’s degrees, Horner moved her passions to the National WWII Museum, also in New Orleans in 2003.
Then in 2005, a particularly bad storm named Katrina was heading for New Orleans.
Horner takes a deep breath before recounting the adventure. “Let me begin by saying y husband is fearless. Having met and worked in the same business for so long, we were very much tied together with that corporate history and I understood completely how important his job was for him. He called me at work and said ‘Paula, this storm is the big one. You have got to get your volunteers to go home and get safe. You need to be home at this time because we’re leaving’. The volunteer I was sitting with said ‘My house is plenty big and we’ll be fine’. I said ‘Richard is never this alarmed. You have got to get out.’ Later, we watched that same volunteer being rescued from the top of his roof by a helicopter on TV.”
Horner did as requested by Richard, and the due headed to Baton Rouge, picking up family members and staff from Richard’s company along the way. “There were 37 of us. We went to the Holiday Inn and we were all hunkered down and it was a rainy night obviously and we watched all these support people like utility people and workers coming in…and I was so moved….and people were feeding one another and helping each other. We knew the city was going to be gone.” For a long week, the caravan of people hunkered down, and Horner searched frantically for her mother, who she ultimately found after a week of searching.
Ultimately, the Horners along with Paula’s mother and the entire staff for Richard’s company relocated to San Antonio after yet another storm, Rita, hammered the area. She continues, “New Orleans didn’t really reopen for so long. The National WWII Museum offered me a job and they wanted me to raise money to fix the museum. I adored that museum and they allowed me to bring WWII art to the museum but I said ‘No, I can’t raise money for a museum when everybody needs a new house’. With the devastation, I couldn’t just raise money and that’s when I walked away from that relationship.”
The family was living in hotels in the interim when they began to think about where to put down new roots. Horner explains, “We had been to Boerne during summer vacations and we had often talked about retiring here. When we moved to San Antonio Richard suggested we go look in Boerne. Maybe we’ll retire 10 years sooner, but we decided we loved it and were here full time in 2005.”
After the trauma of Katrina, the forced move, and the relocation, Horner was a bit lost. She explains, “I cried for about 6 months. I didn’t know who I was going to be in Texas. I had lived my entire life in New Orleans, and it was very hard for me. A friend that was on Richard’s board was an art collector and had an event at the Western Art Gallery in Kerrville…and he asked me if I could act as curator on his exhibit. It was a great collection, and that’s when I stumbled into the museum. I volunteered and was hired as his curator and registrar. I loved it. I was introduced into the whole genre of western art and had a great time. To some, western art isn’t art, and getting through that barrier was easy for me as it was such a wonderful unique experience. They were elite artists. It was a wonderful opportunity and I really enjoyed it.”
At the same time, Richard formally retired in 2010 yet expressed no desire to stop working. So the Horners began to research other opportunities, and after a fortuitous meeting with our local EDC, learned that a higher-end pet store was needed locally. She explains, “We knew the town needed men’s clothing, but we didn’t really fit that, but we also thought about a modern pet store. We love animals, and PetLand offered an educational opportunity as part of their model and I love that. I wanted a store that taught people things about their animals, and they taught you so much. It was a much deeper connection. I loved it. They wanted us to sell puppies, and we weren’t going to do that. So we went with them with a plan with a community store and we brought in adoptions instead. I had made connections with the local shelters and they said that if I could find local partners for adoptions, they’d let me open. So we did in 2011.”
The road was rocky, however. While the Horners loved their work and their passion for animals, outside forces made things difficult. She explains, “Our rent doubled in the first few years. That hurt. So then we moved locations, and the landlord decided after we moved that he didn’t want us to have dogs/cats in the building. That closed us in 2018. We were still doing the adoptions, but it was a complete mess. If I can’t be happy in a pet store, we need to close. So that’s what we did. It was so fun for a while with our birthday parties and conga lines and we sang songs…and it was joyous. The employees were so fun and I’ve watched a lot of those kids grow up and we still see them from time to time.”
At the same time, friend and President of the Arts Council, Doris Perez moved to Houston, leaving an opening for leadership. Horner stepped in. She explains, “In 2015, I took over as President. I wanted to expand our viewpoint on art. The Majestic Ranch Arts Foundation provided a lot of emphasis on our goals cause they arrived and they had their visions and they were offering to help fund much of our work if they had a seat at the table. Without their help we never could have gotten as far as we have. They have been incredible partners. We have been able to have classes and teaching at their property. Our board met frequently and put together a schedule of classes and they underwrote us. We had classes in everything from watercolor to sculpting. Majestic underwrote those classes and we had great turnout and we did over a year of those classes with them. They put us on the map.”
Horner took this same model and began work with the Patrick Heath Public Library to utilize their empty amphitheatre. She continues, “Kelly (Director of the Library) did the same thing – you program 6 months of concerts and we’ll underwrite it. We made a program, booked 6 bands, and did Thursday nights of free concerts and it went great. We’ve had 11 or so concerts of there at this point and the Library re-ignited their concert money and it’s really been great. It’s been connecting the dots and we don’t want to be events people as the Council, but we’re providing arts to the community via all means necessary which is extremely important to me personally and to our group as a whole.”
Horner ultimately was able to establish the Council as an umbrella non-profit, enabling other organizations to utilize their organization to start and fund their own initiatives. The Al Fresco Art group, Boerne Performing Arts, and even Dickens on Main are now grouped under the umbrella, bringing even more art to the community. Additionally, the group has been branching out to neighboring cities to create even more partnerships. She continues, “We have to date made partnerships with arts organizations in those outlying areas that are closest to us – Fredericksburg, Kerrville, Wimberley, New Braunfels, and others – so we have already begun to collaborate and share functions and resources and connect artists so that our artists here might easily participate with them. So that’s a major focus for us.”
And as for focus, Horner is unsure of her next steps in her life, though she is quite solid in her love for this area. “I have so enjoyed the freedom to get out into the hill country and to learn more about this place that we now call home. It’s very sweet here. We went back to New Orleans recently and I miss it tremendously, but it’s not what we left. It’s never been the same since the storm. I cried all the way home to here…but it’s such a wonderful place to live and I can’t ever imagine leaving here now that I’m here. It’s so beautiful and sweet and peaceful. I’ve met so many incredible women here – they are so strong. I love the fact that they wear sequins in the day time and they can be cute and sexy while roping cattle and riding horses is just wonderful to me. And as for me, I’m just spending more time on my balcony listening to birds and thinking about ways to grow the Council. And I hope to keep doing that for as long as I can.”