At 76 feet tall and visible from the busy Houston Street thoroughfare, the new mural by San Antonio artist, creative director and educator Andy Benavides is literally one of downtown's highest-profile pieces of public art.
Despite its dramatic size, the mural celebrating San Antonio's love affair with the Spurs sprung from humble origins, according to Benavides — "a vision that was inspired by my mom and her sisters' love for their team."
In late October, Centro San Antonio, a nonprofit placemaking organization, announced that Benavides had won a highly competitive open call to create a massive mural downtown celebrating the city's unyielding admiration for its NBA team.
The commission, part of Centro's Arts Everywhere initiative, places public art on privately owned spaces. It also came with a healthy $100,000 honorarium to cover the sizable fees and expenses the conception and execution of such a large-scale mural demands.
Shortly after the initial announcement, Centro San Antonio declared that the next phase for the mural had moved forward with approval by the city's Department of Arts & Culture Public Art Committee and was heading for approval through the San Antonio Arts Commission. The proposal passed Nov. 3 — a turnaround practically unprecedented in the realm of public art.
Also moving with remarkable speed, Benavides and his team completed the mural Por Vida (For Life) Nov. 22.
"When we work together great things happen," Benavides explained via text. "This was the thought that crossed my mind and inspired my organizing of a team to bring my vision to a reality."
In the piece, which scales the side of the Houston Street Garage at the intersection of Houston and Navarro streets, a pair of aged hands cradle a "Super San Anto" prayer candle. The candle's label features a Spurs jersey surrounded by a ring of red roses.
A banner reading "1973" features prominently under the jersey, referencing the year the Chaparrals relocated to San Antonio, becoming the Spurs. Below, an NBA trophy ring reminds us of the Spurs' incredible accomplishments and the indelible mark the team has made on the community.
Like the Spurs, Benavides is no stranger to operating at high velocity. Continuing that analogy, he also moves with purpose, although eschewing NBA-style safety glasses for his signature horn-rimmed specs.
In addition to his practice as a visual artist, Benavides serves as executive director of Supporting Multiple Arts Resources Together (SMART), a nonprofit dedicated to building community through the arts. The organization includes educational and exhibition spaces, both located on South Flores Street in the same building as Benavides Picture Framing and BZ Designs, Benavides' for-profit businesses. The two ventures are among the top choices for artists and collectors alike when it comes to handling and presenting their work.
Benavides runs both the for- and nonprofit entities alongside his wife and partner Yvette.
A single thread of great import carried Benavides' latest mural project from start to finish: teamwork. Those included the nonprofit and city entities that pushed the project forward, the underpinnings of what makes the Spurs a remarkable sports team and the talented individuals he tapped to realize the massive endeavor.
"Special thanks to Centro/Art Everywhere project for funding us," Benavides said in the recent text, "the City of San Antonio, The San Antonio SPURS and my thanks to SOUPE, Matt Tumlinson, Jose Cosme, Christina Duncan and Danielle Edwards for helping bring this vision to a 76' tall reality, and my storytellers behind the cameras, Santiago 'SLIM' Lopez, Rey Silva, and Christie Gallegos."