If you work a little late on Thursday and are able to leave the job by five on Friday, you can probably get home, shower, walk and feed the dogs, and still make it to Southtown for First Friday by 7:30 p.m. Personal taste and a strong belief that free beer is always worth the line make Blue Star and RC galleries my first stops, then to Three Walls, Cactus Bra, the UTSA Satellite Space, and maybe Joan Grona Gallery. If you move fast - and don't mind bumping the occasional shoulders - you might make it to the Bower gallery by 9:30. Often this can be a culturally satisfying evening, but few are satiated by beer and art alone ... What about dinner? On First Friday, Southtown eateries tend toward bad service, mediocre food, and eternal waits. And even if you choose to forego eating, how much time is left before the galleries on South Flores call it a night? There is a limit to the amount of art even the most adamant enthusiast can absorb in a few hours, and hunger has a way of tainting artistic encounters.

Andy Benavides, owner of both BZ Design Inc. and Benavides Picture Framing and Gallery, as well as acting director of ONE9ZERO6 and the Calle de Flores organization (a non-profit mentoring program that exposes neighborhood kids to some of the various aspects of commercial and fine art), has a solution: "People can't see everything on First Friday; and with good reason, there's a tendency for people to concentrate on South Alamo. San Antonio has a diverse culture, and there's lots of art. I'm of the standpoint that having two opportunities to experience art in a month can't hurt." Welcome to Second Saturday.

Benavides and other South Flores galleries have worked together to establish "Second Saturdays on South Flores." By cooperating to share promotional expenses, these galleries hope to offer San Antonio a larger and more diverse arts district. "I grew up in this neighborhood. When I told people I was going to move my businesses and art space from South Alamo to South Flores, they laughed and said, 'You'll never get people to come out there.' I took that as a challenge. Nobody believed there would be an art gallery in this area, now we have seven." Benavides notes, "All we need now is a book store in South Park mall."

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Robert Tatum's Sacred Sad Puppy is among the new prints on display at the Honey Factory.

Benavides established his frame shop, design firm, and art space on South Alamo nearly a decade ago. More recently, a number of the city's well-known artists and art supports have joined Benavides in opening galleries along the South Flores corridor. Adjacent to ONE9ZERO6, artist Alberto Mijangos has Salon Mijangos; Chicano barrio artist Joe Lopez runs the Gallista Gallery across the way; and down the road, Robert Tatum fronts the Honey Factory, next door to fashion photographer Joe Salazar, who helms his second Salazar Studio.

"The inner-city in major metropolis are developed by creative individuals," Benavides explains. "The areas have historic value because of their age, but most people are put off because of their understanding of the neighborhood and the condition of the buildings. Artists are more focused on price and possibility. When I decided to take ONE9ZERO6, it was completely boarded up. People thought I was crazy."

Benavides has big plans for the area: "I'd like to see an art park here. A park for kids, but with swings that wouldn't look like swings and a slide that does more than just go down." If Second Saturdays on South Flores become the institution that Benavides believes it will, the grounds might well become a place for children and artists alike to play. In the meantime, San Antonio can at least enjoy an additional evening of art.

More by Noah Sternthal



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