Mural of pecans and mountain lions by Cristina Sosa Noriega. Image courtesy of Rivard Report

Spirit of the Southside

I was just re-appointed to serve on the San Antonio Arts Commission representing district 3 on the southside of town. We don’t get much public art here. We get car lots and mobile phone shops. Now with the Missions’ World Heritage designation, the city is working to beautify the immediate area that leads tourist from downtown to the Mission Reach. There are wonderful murals going up, most, if not all, with natural environments and indigenous symbols. This is work we can all be proud of. We have selected local artists and some that participated in the Public Art mentorship program. The selected artists have met with community members and the American Indians in Texas to gather feedback and history of the location where their work appears. The results have been wonderful. We have community involvement and buy-in. The Department of Arts and Culture has organized and led these community meetings here and across the city.

Black bear and cactus mural

Summer Mural featuring nopal and black bear by Joe de la Cruz. Part of the Four Seasons Murals

My hope is that we can continue this work down Military Drive where there is just sign after sign for all kinds of businesses but nothing cultural or artistic to point to and be proud of. Our Chuck E Cheese was upgraded. Yeah wow. Another strip mall has been added. How many shops does Cricket Wireless need anyway? Used car lots and fast food pepper the strip which I now drive daily to get my daughter to her new school over by Brooks City Base. This area has been upgraded with chain restaurants, major shops, a movie theater and now I see a batting cage. It’s promising but I would like to see more work further west where I live by I35. The mall has been struggling but they are currently tearing up the flooring throughout. Some stores close and others open. I’m still mad that Luby’s is gone. I am not a fan of the food court. Yes, I like Ulta but I much rather have the ice cart pass by my booth repeatedly so I can recharge and continue shopping.

Great things are on the horizon for the southside thanks to Councilwoman Viagran. I am excited about the newly elected city council. Ana Sandoval has proven to be a firecracker and Roberto Treviño along with William Cruz Shaw put their lives on the line to get rid of the confederate monument in Travis Park. I doubt any museum will want that but we shall see where it lands. Councilman Brockhouse has requested more cultural outreach to his district 6 which sounds good to me.

If I had a wish list, and I do, it is to add more variety of cultural and culinary opportunities to the southside. We need a cultural center to put on live music and plays, a place where kids can paint or play with musical instruments. We also need a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. Even better, how about an urban farm collaborative. We have so much wisdom in our neighborhood. Our elders come from a time and place where they grew corn and raised chickens in their back yards. They walked out to the garden and plucked a few leaves to make a tea to cure what ails them. We need to re-learn this knowledge. All we need is the space and leadership to do it.

Rivard Report: Newest World Heritage Murals Depict Wildlife, Four Seasons

Texas Public Radio: San Antonio Dedicates ‘Four Seasons’ Murals For World Heritage Area

Featured Image: Mural of pecans and mountain lions by Cristina Sosa Noriega. Image courtesy of Rivard Report

 

In Defense of Public Art

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.

Sincerely,

Yadhira Lozano
Arts advocate & mother

image: Westside mural on Commerce Street just across the bridge from downtown.