San Antonio has eight happier artists this week, thanks to the Artist Foundation of San Antonio. Last Friday, AFSA handed out its inaugural prizes, two grants of $5,000 each in four categories. Some of the winners are names you are used to seeing in print: Poet Jenny Browne, who won in the Literary Arts category, will use her five grand to obtain childcare for her two baby girls so that she can finish Like the Universe — a collection of poetry about “the intensely metaphysical experience” of being a mother (thanks to the grant, it won’t be Raymond Carver-esque prose about the sometimes-intensely-frustrating-to-the-extent-that-alcohol-and-or-prescription-drugs-seem-like-a-reasonable-precaution-against-the-asylum experience of being an artist with kids. But then the zen Browne probably wouldn’t put it quite that way). The mother of Vincent Valdez — who has escaped the suffocating praise and expectations generated by his moving graphite drawings of boxers and vatos with an extended sabbatical in California — accepted Valdez’s award in the Visual Arts category. And jazz musician, chanteuse, and writer (who sometimes appears in these pages in all categories) Bett Butler picked up a check in the Performing Arts category.

Butler, Browne, and Valdez were joined by some artists who are not yet household names but ought to be: Noted documentarian Ray Santisteban — cinematographer on 1992’s Incident at Oglala, and producer of a great doc on Chicana spoken-word performers, among other gigs — will use his funds to create a missing link in Chicano cinema, a silent-film-era work titled The Desert Flower. Artist Anne Wallace will take another welcome (because we loved 2004’s “Wild Thing: Love Song for a River When Water is the New Oil”) turn at video, with a short film about “rites of passage” and the U.S.-Mexico border. Composer James Ballentine will work up a piece for a May concert (stay tuned for details) that combines Brazilian rhythms and musical forms with American jazz and contemporary classical veins. Writer Jo LeCoeur will complete a set of poems, To the Sun, based on her mother’s Choctaw heritage, and artist Chris Sauter will apply his conceptual, structural sculpture to the prison-refuge that is the childhood bedroom in The Known Universe. See for an October fundraiser and a February Art Ball.

Other surprises were in store at the awards announcement. Mel Weingart of the Tobin Foundation for Theatre Arts announced that his organization, endowed by the late theater patron and all-around velvet gentleman Robert L.B. Tobin, will contribute $10,000 for two $5,000 grants in costume and set design for a future round (to be joined by a one-time $5,000 gift for classical singing, the Cortes Ashe Award, in honor of the late tenor George Cortes). Also sharing in the warm fuzzies were first lady Linda Hardberger (a Tobin trustee) and Dennis Martinez, who when he’s not representing the Cultural Collaborative chairs the San Antonio Public Library Foundation — an organization linked to the contentious bid to rename the Oakwell Library the Tobin Library at Oakwell in honor of the family (guess who?) that donated the land. (A colleague and friend recently suggested creating a Six Degrees of Separation game for San Antonio; but what would be the point? You’d get to three maybe, with newcomers.)

In such a close-knit art community, it’s inevitable that institutions would share personnel over the years. The most recent exchange of fluid bodies was overshadowed by the Museo Americano’s latest strip tease. The museum, which swears it is opening in April 2007, hosted a private preview last Thursday of Tiffany & Co.’s new Frank Gehry-designed jewelry collection. The pink-and-silver facility will be able to handle even bigger events (i.e. a 1400-person Best Of SA party, complete with giant video-game screen and pole dancers) without a hitch now that former San Antonio Museum of Art security head and facilities manager Bill Wolff (no relation, to me or Nelson) has joined the staff. SAMA’s loss is definitely the Alameda’s gain.

Gallery i2i on McCullough, site of CAM’s fantastic Pink Lemonade installation by Judith Cottrell, is going nonprofit. Cottrell and husband-partner-artist Gary Smith will host an art-show fundraiser in the space, 6-10 p.m. October 13, to aid in their transition to 501(c) 3 status. They could sure use 5 grand, too, so bring your art budget.


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