Around 25 artists, City staff, and media professionals convened at Centro de Artes Tuesday morning for a preview of SATX/MX: Un Viaje Lleno de Cultura, an exhibit featuring the work of 21 San Antonio artists whose work grapples with the theme of what life in San Antonio is like through the lens of their Mexican and Mexican-American heritages.

Centro de Artes will host a free opening reception for the exhibit on Thursday, Oct 6. at 6 p.m. The artwork will be on display through January 2017.

The preview, which was hosted by the City’s Department of Arts & Culture and Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), comes on the heels of the recent community input meeting on Sept. 20 at Centro de Artes, where participants shared their visions for the building’s future. They also discussed the obstacles in place that could hinder the institution from realizing its true potential as a center for local and regional Latino Art, with a focus on San Antonio and South Texas.

(Read more: Bringing a ‘Shared Vision’ to Centro de Artes)

“We need to keep the momentum going,” Treviño said. “We shifted gears very quickly – we have both an exhibit and a conversation going. Timing is everything.”

Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) observes the art around him during an exhibit preview of SATX/MX: Un Viaje Lleno de Cultura. Photo by Rocío Guenther.

The exhibit tells the story of the connection between Mexico, San Antonio, and Texas, said Department of Arts & Culture Interim Director Debbie Racca-Sittre, adding that many locals will be able to relate to the stories being told by each work of art.

“You have people who are local and tell the story about growing up here and how it felt to be Mexican-American,” Racca-Sittre said, “and then you have the Mexican nationals, with some of them telling their story about their travels and difficulties about getting to Texas. It speaks a lot to our local community.”

Both Treviño and Racca-Sittre, who are involved in the community input process for Centro de Artes, said that the exhibit is a “great kickoff” to continue the conversation about Centro maintaining its core mission. Racca-Sitre said that next month, the Department of Arts & Culture will come up with a written plan and a vision for the site, reflecting the conversations from the community.

“This building is here to champion diversity, champion the culture, and celebrate our community,” Treviño said. “I always talk about buildings like people. The intent is there – we have to think of Centro de Artes like a living thing and help it move the city in the right direction.”

The Centro de Artes building is largely financed by the City and its operations used to be run by Texas A&M University – San Antonio. The SATX/MX exhibition was put together by Department of Arts & Culture staff after A&M-San Antonio relinquished control of operations of the facility in August, said Public Art Specialist Sean FitzGibbons.

(Read more: Rivard: Centro de Artes Awaits a Better Vision)

“We found out in August that we would be in charge of putting programming in place, so the department team came up with this idea through careful consideration of each artist,” FitzGibbons said.

For a full list of artists and their bios, click here.

The show was originally intended for Plaza de Armas, added Special Projects Manager Sebastian Guajardo, “but when we were tasked with doing temporary exhibits here, we just got more works from the artists.”

Guajardo and FitzGibbons said that they conducted studio visits for six months and slowly put the show together, with careful consideration of each of the artists. “It was a perfect fit for the thesis of this building,” FitzGibbons said.

Participating exhibit artists came to the preview Tuesday and told the Rivard Report about the focus of their artwork as well as their hopes for the future of Centro de Artes.

Art pieces by Raul Gonzalez focus on themes of immigration and construction work. Photo by Rocío Guenther.

“… (These pieces) focus on the theme of construction, working class (people), and immigrants,” said artist Raul Gonzalez, who brought along his daughter June for the preview. “My dad came as an immigrant when he was young and became a citizen when I was 15. He’s in his late 50s now and has been working construction for 35 years. You know, people complain about there not being jobs, but there’s tons of immigrants working outside doing the jobs no one wants to do to support their families and send money back home.”

Artist Ernesto Ibañez, who is originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, said that he is grateful for the opportunity to showcase his work.

“I think that it’s very important to have this show because San Antonio has a big Hispanic community, and it’s interesting to see how more spaces have opened up for artists (to display their work),” Ibañez said in Spanish.

Artist Jose Sotelo, from Coahuila, Mexico, has three exhibit pieces that depict calentadores – heaters. He said that as he grew up, his grandfather would always place a candle on top of the heater, so the pieces deal with his feeling of nostalgia.

“I definitely see that Mexico-San Antonio connection growing in many levels and areas,” Sotelo said, agreeing with Ibañez.

Jose Sotelo’s artwork depicts several calentadores – heaters. Photo by Rocío Guenther.

As for future programming at Centro de Artes, there are exhibits scheduled all through June 2017, Guajardo said. The next one opens on Oct. 27 and will include altars for Día de los Muertos.

“Then we will have a food exhibit opening in early December called Our comida, our cultura, which focuses on the vibrancy of Mexican, Tex-Mex, and Mexican-American food,” Guajardo said. “It will include paintings, some Rolando Briceño table-scapes, (that will spur a) conversation about food and culture. We have a Mexican artist coming, David Casillas, and he’s doing an installation where he’s building a table from Pecan and he’s going to have an altar to the Virgen de Guadalupe, who many say is a reincarnation of Tonatzin – the corn goddess – and it explores everything about corn as a native food, processing corn. There will also be photos on the wall of cornfields in Mexico.”

To see a full list of future programming at Centro de Artes, click here.

Treviño is glad to see Centro de Artes being activiated again with unique, Latino programming.

“I’m so thankful and grateful that we have something like this,” Treviño said. “We should have the courage to take on big tasks, like what we did here in Centro de Artes, because so many people want to help and there is so much available for us to make it work. I’m confident it will become a success because we all want it to become a success.”

The Centro de Artes gallery is open TuesdaySunday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. and is free and open to the public. For more information, click here.

June Gonzalez stands in front of an art piece depicting eagle wings that has several embedded photo strips of the U.S.-Mexico border crossing. Photo by Rocío Guenther.

Top image: Local artists Jose Sotela and Ernesto Ibañez reflect on the artwork displayed at Centro de Artes.  Photo by Rocío Guenther.

Related Stories:

Bringing a ‘Shared Vision’ to Centro de Artes

Rivard: Centro de Artes Awaits a Better Vision

Plan to House DRT Library at Centro de Artes Quashed

‘Nuestra Gente’ Exhibit Shines Light on Everyday People

Rocío Guenther

Rocío Guenther worked as a reporter and editorial assistant for the Rivard Report from June 2016 to October 2017. Rocío writes about immigration, the U.S.-Mexico relationship, and culinary scenes. She...

Read more