My letter in defense of public art went into record and was read out loud by City Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran at today’s city council meeting.
March 9, 2017
Dear Mayor Taylor and City Councilmembers,
I am your district 3 representative on the City of San Antonio’s Art Commission and member of the Public Art committee. My lifelong love of the arts began as a child in public school on the city’s southside. My childhood was a celebration of the culture and heritage of our shared identity as a city. I was taught that we have a rich history and deep roots as our celebrations were held on the grounds of the San Jose Mission, at Our Part of Town talent shows, the Arneson River Theater, Fiesta stages and parades and community centers. Our sense of identity is strong.
As I reflect on the past 20+ years of working in the arts in Los Angeles and San Antonio, I find that there is no city like ours. My work for over a decade involved a specific focus on the American West. The region’s history, geography, and opportunities have made it into a land of hope, wonder, and inspiration. We must take a larger view of where we stand in this time and place and realize that San Antonio’s unique character is due to its cultural identity. This is where the cattle drives crossed up to Chicago to take the railroad east and west. This is where battles were fought. Where immigrants arrived to live off the rich land. German, Irish, Spanish, Mexican and Native American traditions and work ethics made us who we are today.
The arts are what keep these traditions and identities alive. We celebrate our independent spirit of the West through our dances, folk music, and poetry. Our celebrations are confined to dates and times so that many of the visitors we have to our great city may not be able to immerse themselves in our annual celebrations, however, the one art form that is available to all who come is public art. It doesn’t have operating hours nor does it turn anyone away. It is our loyal ambassador. It invites people in to observe it, contemplate it, love it or hate it. It evokes emotion and inspires.
What would San Antonio look like without the Westside murals, the Torch of Friendship, a sculpture in a garden? Remove all of the WPA-era tile murals along the Riverwalk and what are we left with to tell the tales? All of these works of art are subjects of discussion and photography. These lasting images are sent across the country and the world, and express who we are as a city with their mere presence.
As a member of the Art Commission, I am dedicated to preserve our cultural heritage and dare to say San Antonio is THE home of the American West. That spirit lives on today and what an amazing message we send to the world through our public art. We are committed to commissioning the best works of art by the best artists. We ensure that selected artists understand the cultural fabric of our city and are training local artists to rise to the call of public art so that we produce the best storytellers via this very public medium. I urge you to support the work of the Department of Arts and Culture because without it, we lose all that we have worked for, we lose our very own identity.
Arts advocate & mother
image: Westside mural on Commerce Street just across the bridge from downtown.