ARTS AND CULTURE IN
Mark Glass is a journalist trapped in a lawyer's body, balancing his
writing and broadcasting on travel, entertainment and professional sports.
When most of us non-Texans, think about our ostentatiously large
southern state, the last image that comes to mind is the realm of Fine Arts. Visions
spring forth of cattle ranches, oil fields and either the type of cowboys who wear
Stetsons all year, or those in helmets from August thru January (only December, if they
dont make the playoffs).
Those who know a little better, have learned that Dallas and Houston are, in
fact, quite cosmopolitan nowadays. Dig a bit deeper, and one discovers that San
Antonios downtown River Walk area is as exciting, attractive and diverse as any
urban center in the country.
But it required a second visit for this slow learner to notice the
splendid array of museums and art galleries there, as well. Not to mention a library - of
all places - so stunning it can be listed among tourist attractions. Whadda ya think
o that, podnuh?
Starting on the grassroots side, the Blue Star Art Space just east of
downtown is a double strip of warehouses that was transformed into a non-profit
contemporary art center 13 years ago. It includes several studios, exhibit space, a
microbrewery restaurant, performance area, and educational facilities for exchanges beteen
visiting artists and area schools.
ArtPace reaches further afield, with its International Artist-in-Residence
program. The twelve selected each year (half from Texas; the rest selected from a
worldwide competition) receive two months of lodging, materials and studio/exhibition
space. This ambitious enterprise was endowed by members of the Pace family - best known
for salsa, and related food products. They converted an 18,000 square-foot building, built
in the 1920s for an auto dealership, retaining the garage doors for any enormous
sculptures its beneficiaries produce. Whenever one visits, there will likely be some
ever-changing exhibits, and educational or social events on their schedule.
In a more traditional vein, the San Antonio Museum of Art is located in a
huge (yet still growing), stately building, with lovely surrounding grounds, which started
as a Lone Star brewery in 1884. May as well sample your art in original beer environs to
wash down that salsa. The contents of this 104,000 square-foot structure cover the gamut,
from Egyptian, Roman and Chinese antiquities to every era of artistic endeavor in the
Western Hemisphere. Pre-Columbian artifacts introduce Spanish Colonial works, paving the
way for American artists from the 18th Century to the present.
Since thats still not big enough for Texas standards, another 30,000
square-feet will open this fall, housing the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Latin
American Art, embracing both the old and the contemporary. Even before the new structure
has been filled with the collection, the space was spectacular enough to warrant a
A short drive north of downtown brings one to the McNay Art Museum. The
magnificent estate of the late Marion Koogler McNay - a massive Mediterranean-style house
on 23 elegantly landscaped acres - is worth the trip before you even get to their fabulous
collection of over 10,000 paintings, sculptures and prints. Works by Rodin, Georgia
OKeefe, Picasso and most of the major Impressionists are included. Admission is
free, other than a nominal charge for special exhibitions. Besides the museums
100,000 annual visitors, we observed several bridal parties staking out spots about the
lawn and gardens, posing for pictures in their favorite nooks of that idyllic setting.
The gallery scene is as rich and diverse as the citys ethnic heritage.
The San Antonio Art Gallery Association includes about 20 members, mainly concentrated in
the downtown area. Some feature traditional Southwestern and Mexican artists. Others are
as upscale and trendy as their counterparts in New York and California. The Parchmann
Stremmel Gallery, a block from the Riverwalk, for example, not only offers an impressive
array of modern paintings, sculpture and glassworks, but the owners office doubles
as a cigar bar.
The Market Square area, southwest of the business district, is best known for
its restaurants, sprawling shopping arcades, and street festivals, celebrating Hispanic
contributions to the local culture. Yet Gallery Ortiz and Si Como No provide a large
selection of contemporary art, including many other styles and points of origin.
San Antonios burgeoning support of the arts is even apparent from a
drive through the city. Exterior sculptures and paintings abound. Most notable is the
nine-story ceramic mural on the side of the Santa Rosa Health Care building facing Milam
Park, by renowned local artist Jesse
Trevino, "Spirit of Healing". The hospitals mission of
specializing in treatment of children is eloquently depicted in the image of an angel with
one broken wing protecting a young boy holding a dove. Trevino said one of his own sons
was the model for the boy, and his late sister (who died in childhood) inspired the face
of the angel.
And that library I mentioned? Just north of Riverwalk one sees a vast,
reddish ultra-modern building, which is more inviting than most public libraries. The
interior is as wide open as the Texas plains. Bold colors, high ceilings, skylights, and
starkly-angled walls and staircases create such a stimulating environment that teenagers
have been known to gather there to study when they dont even have to!
When youre ready for brain food of a more playful variety, the
Hertzberg Circus Museum houses an engaging collection of memorabilia. Theres also an
interactive Childrens Museum, with exhibits that will appeal to all ages.
By all means, savor Riverwalks bounty of entertainment choices,
including a cruise on one of the flat-bottomed boats plying its winding course (some
include leisurely dining). Just remember theres a wide world of art to enjoy there,
as long as youre in the neighborhood.
Email: email@example.com (Mark Glass)
Mark Glass is a
Mark Glass is a freelance writer and broadcaster, based in St. Louis, covering travel, entertainment and professional sports for his readers
and listeners. Mark was travel editor for "St. Louis Connoisseur", and
now have that role for "Life in the Midwest", based in Indianapolis.
For the last fifteen years, he's written and broadcast features on
travel, entertainment and sports, while maintaining his law practice in the St. Louis
area. (More about this writer.)