Last fall I was fortunate to be able to spend some time at Artpace in San Antonio, Texas. I really enjoyed spending time with all the folks there and feel I made some great friends. I met Ruth and Rico at the first art opening I attended there and both were working with an organization called San Anto Cultural Arts. SACA is a small but prolific organization that has been operating out an office on the west side of town. For more details about SACA check them out at this link.
Ruth had just received her BFA from the Chicago Art Institute and Rico has been a volunteer artist with the organization. They are involved with the mural program and offered to give me a tour of their work. I was excited to see what they had been working on so I made my way to their office. They showed me around the head quarters and told me that their founder Manny Castillo had recently passed away from cancer and that the organization was just recovering from the great loss. This was a surprise for me seeing how young this leader was, about 40 years old. The legacy he left with the staff and artists at SACA is definitely one he would be proud of.
Rico keeps a job as a taxi driver so our tour bus was a yellow cab mini van. Awesome! We started out by looking at the murals closest to the office and moved further and further out into the West Side. Ruth explained to me how each mural is lead by different artists in residence. Each of those artists spend time working up themes and ideas that are then presented to the community and the collaborating team. The teams and community members then work together with the resident artist to produce a mural.
Working with several different lead artist keeps the approach fresh and unique for every mural. Ruth recounted how with each mural they had improved not only with ideas but also with materials. She showed me her first mural painted with house paint and how it was already showing fading from the sun. In comparison the mural next to it was painted with a professional grade acrylic paint that was holding up much better. Some of the murals they have produced even include some glasswork and sculptural relief elements. Each mural they showed seemed to get better and better.
As the afternoon went on I was exposed all sorts of murals that they had produced with all sorts of themes such as domestic abuse, health, community leaders, historical musicians and much more. Rico even treated us to a poem that he wrote for the inauguration of one their murals. SACA holds public blessings of their murals that consist of a prayer by a catholic priest, Aztec dancers and Conjunto groups. I feel really honored to have gone on this tour thanks to both Ruth and Rico. Keep up the good work!