Blue Star Contemporary’s Red Dot art sale app lets you see, buy art virtually

Blue Star Red Dot, the biggest art sale and fundraiser each year for Blue Star Contemporary, is going high-tech with an augmented reality app being built specifically for the event. It’s just one of the ways that art lovers can see the work and support the exhibition space.

Stoke, a San Antonio-based augmented reality development studio, is creating the free app, which will go live on Wednesday and can be used through Oct. 4. It’s called Blue Star Red Dot and is available for iOS and Android.

“We think it is going to revolutionize the way that people share and display art and how we support art, especially in a changing world like we’re experiencing today,” said Patrick Atwater, founder and CEO of Stoke, during a media preview of the app.

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Red Dot, which raises roughly one-third of Blue Star’s budget each year, is usually a one-night party and sale held in the spring. This year’s 30th annual event was postponed when things started shutting down because of the coronavirus pandemic. The hope was that things would have improved enough to put on an in-person event this fall, said Executive Director Mary Heathcott, but when it was clear that that wasn’t going to be possible, the Blue Star team went the virtual route.

The app will allow users to move through the Blue Star galleries, getting an up-close look at the work as well as information about it and about the artists. They also will be able to make purchases from the app.

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Artists featured in Red Dot include Ana Fernandez, Amada Miller, Ansen Seale, Andy Benavides, Ethel Shipton, Guillermina Zabala, Jennifer Ling Datchuk, Jesse Amado, Ken Little, Leigh Ann Lester and Ricky Armendariz.

Each year, Red Dot also honors one patron and one artist for their support of the city’s arts community. This year, the patron is former board chair Francesca “Francie” Billups Mannix, a collector and philanthropist.

The artist being honored is César Martínez, a major figure in the Chicano art movement of the 1970s and 1980s. Several of his works will be available for sale, as well.

Proceeds from most sales will be split 50-50 between Blue Star and the artist. A few artists have decided to give all of the proceeds to Blue Star.

The app is not the only way to experience the show. Work can be viewed and purchased at And those who are up for an in-person experience can see the show at the gallery itself. Appointments can be made daily from Wednesday through Oct. 4 at

“Where we’re at this year, so many artists having so much postponed or canceled, being able to give their work physical space for however much time we could felt really important to me,” said Jacqueline Saragoza McGilvray, curator and exhibitions manager.

Before the pandemic, plans had been in place to make sure that the Red Dot show would be up for more than one night to make it accessible to more people, Heathcott said. The app and the gallery on the web site will do that, too, she said, but there is no substitute for seeing art in person.

“There is tremendous value for experiencing art in person when it’s safe to do so,” she said.

Deborah Martin is an arts writer in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. To read more from Deborah, become a subscriber. [email protected] | Twitter: @DeborahMartinEN

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