A SOUTHERLY DIRECTION 

 
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Blue Star executive director Bill FitzGibbons, Mexican curator Santiago Espinosa de los Monteros, and Instituto de México director Enrique Cortazar, are bringing Mexican Report to town, a survey of more than 55 contemporary artists working in a variety of media, including sculpture, photography and video. The exhibit is made possible by a gift from the SBC Foundation.

Blue Star and Instituto de México bring contemporary MX to SA

A gift from the SBC Foundation of a quarter-million dollars is changing the face of contemporary art in San Antonio by turning our collective gaze southward, to modern Mexico. The funds are the major contribution to date for Mexican Report, a survey show of 91 artworks by more than 55 practicing Mexican artists that will open this spring at Blue Star Art Space and the Instituto de México de San Antonio.

"Anything that strengthens the relationship between our city and Mexico is very important to us," says Laura Sanford, president of the SBC Foundation, whose parent company has growing business ties in Mexico through Tel-Mex. "What really appealed to us," Sanford elaborates, "was the website, the curriculum, are all technology based."

The show is the first collaborative project of Blue Star and the Instituto, an agency of the Mexican government charged with promoting cultural outreach in the U.S. Santiago Espinosa de los Monteros, an independent Mexican curator whose show, Mirar al Sur (Looking South) is touring internationally, selected the artists and work that will appear in Mexican Report. Espinosa is a former Mexican cultural attaché who founded the daily La Jornada and serves as a correspondent for Art Nexus. He has included a breadth of contemporary art forms in the show, from sculpture to photography, painting to video. Among the artists represented are Betsabee Romero, Diego Tuledo, Emilio Said, and Gerardo Suter.

 
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El nacimiento de Venus (o la fuente de la juventud), by Alberto Ibañez.

Blue Star executive director Bill Fitzgibbons envisions the show as the beginning of a new direction in the 20-year-old art center's mission: building a two-way cultural bridge with our southern neighbor. They have already begun discussions with institutions in Monterrey, Mexico City, and Guadalajara for a San Antonio Report, which will also be curated by Espinoza.

The idea of the two-way cultural bridge was inspired at Blue Star by board president Marc Wiegand, a partner with Bracewell & Patterson who spent part of his youth in Mexico and who does business there as an attorney. The notion of exchange is key to Wiegand, who sees a new American perception of Mexico emerging that recognizes that the richly variegated land south of our border has more to offer than beaches, tchotchkes, and tales of druglord exploits, and that the U.S. has much to gain from the relationship.

Wiegand, who also serves on the Executive Committee for the Cultural Collaborative, believes Mexico is key to San Antonio's future economic and cultural development. Like many of the city's leaders who are involved in the Cultural Collaborative, the city-led effort to develop a new cultural resource development plan, Wiegand would like to see the Alamo City become an arts destination, drawing artists, collectors, and students from around the world by developing a unique facet of the global art scene.

"I thought there was a great opportunity for San Antonio to appropriate a niche that no other city had," says Wiegand, "which was to build a relationship with Mexico based on contemporary visual arts."

 
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Bas-relief sculpture made of automobile tires by Betsabée Romero.

But even more importantly, says Wiegand, "There is a new paradigm emerging in San Antonio, a forward-looking, inclusive, diverse perspective," led by local arts institutions and influential members of the business, political, and cultural communities such as Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, Office of Economic Development Director Ramiro Cavazos, Felix Padrón of the Office of Cultural Affairs, and Mayor Ed Garza.

The City of San Antonio provided $50,000 in seed money to develop the exhibition, which has been matched by contributions from individuals and sponsoring partners, including Mexicana Airlines and local insurance broker Eichlitz, Dennis, Wray, and Westheimer. SBC's contribution, the largest corporate donation for contemporary art in San Antonio's history, gives the show real legs, simultaneously increasing Blue Star's prior annual budget by 50 percent.

"This SBC leadership gift is an unprecedented showing for contemporary art and the cultural community of San Antonio," says FitzGibbons, making possible a touring quality exhibit that will produce a full-color companion catalog. FitzGibbons is pursuing discussions about touring Mexican Report on the North American continent through Instituto de México affiliates. Possible locations include Washington, D.C., Chicago, Boston and Montreal. Mexican Report will run simultaneously at Blue Star and the Institúto de México from May 13 through August 22, 2004.

Sanford adds that SBC is very excited about the dual venues. Like the Chihuly exhibits, which took place in several downtown locations, she hopes that Mexican Report will generate city-wide excitement and encourage the public to visit new locations for the arts as well as strengthening ties with Mexico. "We've already built a bridge," says the SBC Foundation's Sanford, "we're adding important layers to that relationship." •


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