Plan to House DRT Library at Centro de Artes Quashed

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Centro de Artes is located on Market Square in the Heart of the Zona Cultural. Photo by Scott Ball.

Centro de Artes is located on Market Square in the Heart of the Zona Cultural. Photo by Scott Ball.

Centro de Artes, the Latino arts education and exhibition space located in the heart of the Zona Cultural, will not become the new home for the Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library Collection, Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) announced Friday.

The Latino arts institute, which is operated by Texas A&M University – San Antonio and largely financed by the City of San Antonio, will continue to fulfill its core mission as a Latino arts and cultural center.

The agreement between the City and A&M-SA was reached in meetings initiated by Treviño after negotiations between A&M-San Antonio and the DRT were first disclosed in a July 8 Rivard Report story. The article noted the lack of any current exhibitions even as City funding continues.

Sources in the local arts community expressed concern the university was looking for ways to maintain the annual City funding, which can reach a maximum of $300,000 a year, while discontinuing its support of an active calendar of Latino arts exhibitions. A deal to house the DRT’s substantial Library Collection, some feared, would signal the end of Centro de Artes as a near-Westside showcase for local and national Latino artists.

(Read more: A&M-San Antonio In Talks to House DRT Library at Centro de Artes)

The Rivard Report article also led to the release of a more robust exhibition schedule for the rest of 2016 and 2017 that had been prepared by Centro de Artes Arts Administrator Joseph Bravo but never approved. Bravo declined comment when contacted.

“Two-thirds of the people in this town identify with that kind of identity, so we need to think about Latino heritage and what that means for a city like San Antonio,” Treviño said in a Friday interview. “We cannot ignore it.”

Texas A&M University - San Antonio President Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson gives remarks. Photo by Scott Ball.

Texas A&M University – San Antonio President Cynthia Teniente-Matson.  Photo by Scott Ball.

Treviño said he met with A&M-San Antonio President Cynthia Teniente-Matson last week, and with Steven G. Olswang, vice president of academic affairs, on Thursday to discuss the impact of having the DRT library at the City-owned building, whose mission is “to facilitate an understanding and appreciation of Latino arts and cultures and their influences on the United States, through exhibitions and related educational programming for a variety of audiences.”

The placement of the DRT library would have represented a fundamental shift of that mission, Treviño said, and given historic tensions between the Latino community and the DRT over its telling of history, placement of the private library that is not open to the public except by appointment in the Zona Cultural would have proven insensitive and offensive to many.

Although the DRT has helped preserve the Alamo, and its Library Collection has grown over the years, many scholars claim that historic Tejano and indigenous perspectives have been excluded or diminished in the narrative.

During the meetings with university representatives, Matson strongly restated her commitment to showcasing Latino arts at Centro de Artes.

“By the end of the meeting we established that (the university) will work to find another solution that does not include the Centro de Artes,” Treviño said, referring to a future home for the DRT collection.

Councilman Roberto C. Treviño (D1) welcomed the Western Heritage Parade & Cattle Drive. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone

Councilman Roberto C. Treviño.  File photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone

The DRT faced a July deadline for removing its library from the building that housed it on the Alamo premises, and it is now in storage.

Centro de Artes, which was established by A&M-San Antonio in 2012 in the former Museo Alameda, itself a failed venture, is undergoing extensive roof repairs and recently had its HVAC system replaced, all at City expense, conditions that led other arts and museum administrators to say the building is ill-suited to house archival collections.

Through the lease agreement with the City, A&M has been permitted to use the building for a nominal $1 a year rent, and currently receives up to $150,000 in operating expenses and $150,000 in programming expenses. The university is supposed to be using the funding to mount arts exhibitions, which critics say is not happening.

Inactive social media accounts, irregular museum hours, and staff turnover haven’t helped. Lack of money and commitment, in addition to constant waves of renaming and reprogramming have diminished Centro de Artes as an arts destination.

“We need to understand our history, our diverse culture, and embrace that,” Treviño said. “I think that there are opportunities to further strengthen that resolve in the city so that arts and culture, especially Latino arts and culture, are embraced.”

Treviño said San Antonio is on the right track to more fully and honestly embrace its heritage and history with various renewal projects, including the San Pedro Creek Improvement Project, scheduled for groundbreaking on Sept. 8, the newly-recognized Zona Cultural along West Commerce Street, and restoration efforts at the Alameda Theater on West Houston Street.

“These are ways to set the right tone,” he said. “We have opportunities, and we should approach (them) in such a way that it recognizes its people, its diversity, its culture.”

Centro de Arte’s lack of focus, organization, and presence in the city is also an “opportunity” to take a closer look at the root cause and figure out “how we can begin a dialogue with the community,” Treviño added.

“If you want to do things fast, you do it alone. If you want to do it right, you do it together,” Treviño said.


Top image: Centro de Artes is located at Market Square in the Heart of the Zona Cultural.  Photo by Scott Ball.

Related Stories:

A&M-SA in Talks to House DRT Library at Centro de Artes

Branch: On the DRT Moving Into Centro de Artes

Daughters of the Republic Bid Farewell to Alamo Duties

‘Nuestra Gente’ Exhibit Shines Light on Everyday People

8 thoughts on “Plan to House DRT Library at Centro de Artes Quashed

  1. This is an excellent development. Now, the next step is to discover why curator Joseph Bravo isn’t being permitted to do his job. With the roof and A/C repaired, there should be nothing standing in the way of programming. What say you, Teniente-Matson? There are many in the art world looking forward to what Bravo has in mind for the space. Why the stonewalling? The community is watching.

  2. Market Square is not the place for the DRT collection; neither is Alamo Plaza. It should be housed on the campus of Texas A&M University – San Antonio .

  3. There should be serious discussions among the DRT, the San Antonio Library system, the Bexar County Library system, UTSA, and A&M-San Antonio to determine an appropriate location and plan of operation for the DRT Library. Since it is a special collection, it should be associated with either a library system or a university library. At the same time, it needs to be recognized as a significant collection that would not exist without the DRT’s involvement. The DRT needs to decide if they want to continue to run their own library in conjunction with one of these partners or if they want to donate it as a special collection to be run by the partner. The city, county, and universities need to become involved quickly before an organization in Austin sweeps in and tries to move the collection out of San Antonio.

  4. I am a businessman an artist and I am interested in the promotion of the arts, in particular , visual arts. The city and Texas A&M have a tremendous opportunity if the get on the same page, highlighting Hispanic art . This tradition has deep roots in San Antonio. Joe Bravo is uniquely equipped to fulfill this mission , which will highlight San Antonio’s art and Hispanic art excellence in the state and the nation. The mission of the museum seems to be clearly delineated , stay focused on this important Vision . Support Joe Bravo.

  5. Looks like diversity is a one way street. I am glad to be reminded! However, I do agree that collection should be housed at one of the universities where it will be preserved and respected for the generations.

  6. The contract between the city and TAMU-SA for the Centro de Artes building that began in 2012 and ended September 30, 2015 provided that the city would pay $301,243.00 a year for “annual operating support” and $150,000 for “annual programming support,” and for TAMU-SA to “….provide $100,000.00 of in-kind personnel salary and $200,000.00 for educational programming support in its budget during each fiscal year of this contract (October 1-September 30).” Did the city verify whether or not TAMU-SA provided the level of support each year that was required by the contract? It appears the city has decreased its annual operating support to $150,000.00 a year according to this article. I am not sure what programs TAMU-SA has put on at the Centro de Artes with the over $2.2 million dollars committed by the city and TAMU-SA over the three years of the contract that began in October 1, 2012 and ended September 30, 2015? Maybe the city can answer that question?

  7. Centro de Artes and its failed predecessor, Museo Alameda, have been a big disappointment. The Museo was oversold and mismanaged. As the Centro de Artes, things at the facility improved but never to the point where it deserved so much city money.

    On the other hand, the DoSeum started with proper planning many years ago and enjoys enthusiastic, widespread community support. Also, its predecessor, the San Antonio Children’s Museum, was very successful. So, what have we learned?

    • Good points. TAMU-SA does not have the expertise nor the resources to meet the expectations of the Cenro de Artes facility. It may be beneficial for TAMU-SA and the city to turn the facility over to an existing museum for further development. I was surprised TAMU-SA extended their contract with the city when the original one expired last year, and it seems the university felt that putting the DRT artifacts into the Centro de Artes would allow them to substantially reduce the efforts and funds they would have to supply going forward to support the facility. Unfortunately, they went about their plan in a way that has caused a rift between them and the city. Can you imagine the uproar if the MOU would have been executed between TAMU-SA and the DRT without city approval? Both the Museo Alameda and the Centro de Artes are a result of political back scratching that went awry which is not unusual-just sad. Who pays? The taxpayers of San Antonio and the students of TAMU-SA.

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