Cultural Arts Center Rises Like a Phoenix with ‘Contemporary Latino Art: El Corazon de San Antonio’

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The Texas A&M University-San Antonio (TAMU-SA) opens the doors on the Educational & Cultural Arts Center tonight with “Contemporary Latino Art: El Corazón de San Antonio.” The exhibit features the work of 79 Latino artists living and working in San Antonio.

“This exhibition surveys the wealth of talent in San Antonio’s Latino arts community centering on the people, places and things closest to the heart,” stated a press release. This exhibition is supported in part by the City of San Antonio Department for Culture and Creative Development.

Photograph by Bryan De La Garza. Photo by Page Graham.

Photograph by Bryan De La Garza. Photo by Page Graham.

The collection is extremely impressive and spans a broad range of works. You’ll see the work of the renowned such as Jesse Treviño or Alberto Mijangos who have had  tremendous influence in the community. You will also see the young and talented working to make their mark like photographer Bryan De La Garza or muralist Adriana Garcia. This exhibit is truly a tour de force, an important exhibit that takes a deep breath and marks this moment in time, reflecting on the impact of Latino artists in our city.

The last time I was in this museum, it was still the Museo Alameda and was at the time the first formal Smithsonian affiliate outside Washington, DC.  Vikki Carr was giving an informal concert out in front of the striking pink contemporary building anchoring the east end of Market Square. It was a tremendous disappointment when the venture ultimately failed. I say with all sincerity that it is more than refreshing to see the building reborn with this exhibition that is so full of life and meaning for the community.

Contemporary Latino Art: El Corazón de San Antonio. Photo by Page Graham.

Contemporary Latino Art: El Corazón de San Antonio. Photo by Page Graham.

This exhibition was curated by a team using  supported interpretation (SI), a curatorial model developed by Dr. Pat Villeveuve of Florida State University. An interesting cultural approach meaning that the team assembled to put this show together not only included professionals from our local arts community but also “appropriate representatives of the museum audience.” The space is well-suited to viewing the many large scale works and there is much video support for the work throughout. The team that made the decisions on this installation deserve much credit for a compelling selection of art and a job well done.

It is extremely meaningful to me, for example, to see the work of Andy Benavides, Joe Lopez, Shek Vega, Luis Valderas, and L.A. hanging in this show because I know how hard they work to make art happen in the SoFlo Arts District every Second Saturday. They are tireless and continually find ways to give back to our community.

Artist and educator Luis Valderas (proprietor of 3rd Space Art Gallery with wife and partner Kim Bishop) shared a simple and direct perspective: “The exhibit means that I get to share the story of my father and his adventures and the Awe that he created in my mind with his stories,” she said. “Additionally I also get to make a commentary about being Mexican American in this country.”

Contemporary Latino Art: El Corazón de San Antonio. Photo by Page Graham.

Artworks by Shek Vega (left) and Jacinto Guevara (right). Photo by Page Graham.

It is meaningful to me to see the work of Jacinto Guevara, self described “puro Mexicano” artist and musician, because I admire the way his work documents the architecture of San Antonio. Not the grand houses, but the little cottages and simple landmarks so easy to lose track of in the dust of progress.

Honestly, the list goes on and on. I suggest that everyone should make a point of experiencing this show. It is an excellent survey of what can be seen in our community. And then, a point should be made of getting to the galleries and studios that represent these artists, so that you can see more of what makes them tick. And then, if you are so moved, you should purchase work from these artists. Because it is only with the support of the community that these treasures continue to survive. Even a small piece is a nice thing. It feels good to live among these little reminders of the simple greatness that exists here in San Antonio.

While we were walking the galleries we were joined by a few other folks. It was very amusing to see Jorge Cortez, el patron of the Mi Tierra empire, inspecting his portrait captured by Lionel Sosa (see in photo gallery at top of page). Mark Jenkins who oversees Market Square for the city was also strolling through. Security guard Zenaido Luis Cantu was really quite wonderful as he related the story of Adan Hernandez’s “El Camaroncito.” It depicts the tale of a woman who danced with El Diablo.

Zenaido Luis Cantu talks about El Camaroncito. Photo by Page Graham.

Zenaido Luis Cantu talks about El Camaroncito. Photo by Page Graham.

It seems that she was willing to dance with anyone, even the devil, and said so for all to hear. And that is exactly what happened late into the evening when she screamed and fell to the floor in a faint, a hand print burned into her back, the smell of sulphur lingering in the club. According to Luis (the name he has gone by since he was a small boy because the gringos couldn’t pronounce his given name) this story actually appeared in the San Antonio Express-News back in the day. Here is an interesting blog account of the oft repeated tale.

This exchange with the security guard (his second career, because he spent 46 years as a printer before that) is a perfect example of the strength of this show. Everyone will have an opportunity to be moved and interact with the art and each other.

TAMU-SA has certainly set the bar high for themselves with this inaugural exhibit. The community should look forward to this institution moving into the future with equally compelling and distinctive events. This city deserves nothing less.

The opening reception is on Friday, May 9, 2014, at 6:30 p.m.

The exhibit will continue throughout the summer closing on August 31. Keep in mind that the Educational & Cultural Arts Center, at 101 S. Santa Rosa, will be open until 9 p.m. on Tuesday evenings in keeping with the city’s Downtown Tuesdays initiative. That means free parking in city lots, which will be very helpful in this part of town. Otherwise, regular hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday – Sunday.

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The Fiesta Arts Fair 2014: Fine Arts and Fun Times For All 

Graffiti: Art to Some, Vandalism to Others

Contemporary Art Month Ain’t Over ‘Til the Cammies Sing

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