Year in Review: Arts

All the city's a stage

CASE: Performing Arts Center NO. 944356
SEE ALSO:The Mashup,” August 22-28, 2007

November’s Creating Ways conference featured plenty of hype surrounding a potential new addition to the creative community in San Antonio — a performing-arts center. Two weeks ago, the Bexar County Community Venue Committees held a public-information session about recommendations for projects to be funded by the proposed Visitor Tax extension, in which the performing-arts center was heavily discussed.

The Cultural Facilities Committee is proposing a recommendation for the center (as one part of a bond package along with San Antonio River improvements, amateur sports, and updates to the AT&T Center and rodeo grounds). After extensive research, it was decided that San Antonio is in dire need of such a facility. Sure, we have the Majestic, the Empire, the
Alamodome, and other venues where performances can be staged — what we lack is a spot dedicated to all performing arts (we must note that San Antonio is the only major city that lacks a center of that sort).

The committee explored the possibility of housing a performing-arts center in the following local venues: HemisFair Plaza, the Alameda Theater, the Lila Cockrell Theater, Cattlemen’s Square, and the Municipal Auditorium. In mid-November the Municipal Auditorium was chosen as the site for the proposed center based on size, central location, and close proximity to the River North project.

If the bond package is approved, the Bexar County performing-arts complex would include a 2,000-seat multi-use hall, a rehearsal hall, an education center, office space for arts organizations, rentable event space, improved access to the San Antonio River, and adequate parking (may we suggest a reasonably priced downtown parking lot?).

The estimated price tag for the facility is $142 million. We admit it’s a pretty hefty bill, but cultural-committee chair Debbie Montford intends for the facility to be self-sustaining like the Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. In the meantime, the cultural-facilities committee has formed a non-profit, the Bexar County Performing Arts Center Foundation, to raise private funding.

With the backing of mayor Phil Hardberger and steadfast support from county judge Nelson Wolff, it seems as if the committee has all the support needed to put its plan into motion. If plans for the performing arts center do follow through, it would not only increase tourism (due to the chance of bringing in traveling acts that would draw outside patrons) but will also increase arts awareness within the city and place San Antonio on the map with other arts and culture centers. Montford hopes for the potential arts center to “be a gathering place for our community” where “synergies will be created.” Let’s see if the combined synergy of Hardberger and Wolff will be enough to get the project placed on the May ’08 ballot.

Jennifer Herrera



A dogmatic district

CASE: SA Film District NO. 0101010
SEE ALSO:Inside the San Antonio Film District,” June 13, 2007

Can almost six months have passed since the Current shed a little light on the San Antonio Film District, the 501 (c) (3) nonprofit “invented” by Mark Sullivan with the goal of making it possible to live in SA and make movies here? According to the San Antonio Film Commission’s website, the last major feature film to utilize the Sake Studio space where the SAFD is located was All the Pretty Horses — exactly where we left them in June.

Local filmmaker Erik Bosse took issue with the Current’s story on his LiveJournal — calling it a “near puff piece” (well, if certain individuals had had the balls to go on-record … ) — and we must say, there was, how you say, activity in the comments section of the web version of the story. Nasty words thrown around which begin with an “F.” (That leaves the door wide open, yeah?)

Things have gone quiet for a few months now, but a recent visit to the SAFD’s significantly updated website — at least since I was there last — suggests a holy turn of events. According to Jessica Matthews’ District bio (in which her title isn’t mentioned), SAFD is “an incredible opportunity for the Body of Christ here in San
Antonio!!” (You’re even invited to become an SAFD prayer warrior on the Support page.)

Follow the “Intelligent Netware” link in the bio of Angelica Musik — another alleged SAFD teammember — and you’ll arrive at a consulting/marketing/web-design site prominently featuring a bold comparison between the destruction wrought by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the cost of small-business failures. Reverent.

Ashley Lindstrom


Arts night confidential

CASE: Luminaria NO. 030295
SEE ALSO:Like moths to the Luminaria,” December 12-18, 2007

Local artists haven’t exactly jumped for joy over next year’s first-of-its-kind Luminaria: Arts Night in San Antonio. In fact, some are a bit peeved (a few artists the Current spoke with are taking a stance by not participating at all) about the way in which the city is handling this “cohesive celebration of the arts through a creative atmosphere showcasing San Antonio’s diverse artistic community.”

Drawing inspiration from Nuit Blanche in Paris and Noche Blanca in Madrid, SA’s version isn’t going to be quite as large-scale as its foreign counterparts — but it has the potential to bring to the city much-needed attention from the out-of-town arts communities.

As things are slowly coming together people are growing anxious (and hesitant) about which installations will be displayed, which artists will be selected, and what exactly the mission statement of this unprecedented Arts Night means. Images of Bill FitzGibbons’s LED installation at the Alamo have been leaked, and the controversy that’s swirled around the event’s funding and OCA-free organization has already been tackled.

The event is an artist-driven celebration, but most of the artists the Current has spoken with have mixed feelings about the event. Gene Elder, HAPPY foundation’s archive director, said the possibility that artists will receive inadequate payment “was very curious.” Another interesting tidbit was brought up by Jason Jay Stevens (half of Potter-Belmar Labs) via email, who asked whether or not the event is aimed at competing with other local art events such as First Friday, Contemporary Art Month, and the newly established SMART Fair.

As of press time 40 project proposals have been received (with an extended deadline of January 11, 2008) and there’s also been $275,000 raised for the event, including $75,000 from title sponsor Bank of America. Let’s see what future developments have in store for Luminaria Arts Night.

Jennifer Herrera

Surveillance photo: Bill Fitzgibbons proposed
Luminaria LED installation at the Alamo


Shakedown: Alameda-style

CASE: Museo Alameda NO. 179756
SEE ALSO:Playing it safe,” June 6-12, 2007, “The Say- Town Lowdown,” November 28-December 4, 2007

We’ve all come to marvel at the newest addition to the local arts scene — the Museo Alameda. Locals appreciate the nighttime luminaria light installation, the added color it brings to the already lively El Mercado, and the questions that lack answers. Problems at the Alameda, you ask? Where shall we begin ...

The organizational leadership shake-up that came down in June and July when Laura Esparza, director of the Smithsonian-affiliated museum, and executive director Ruth Medellin left. The questions surrounding the hiked-up grant from the City `see “Cutting out the CAB,” October 17` have raised plenty of eyebrows in the arts community. Then the exhibition Huipiles: A Celebration didn’t quite honor the history of the handwoven and embroidered garment produced in Mesoamerica in the Mayan tradition. Add to that San Antonio blogger Barbara Renaud Gonzalez’s ongoing indictment of Henry Muñoz, the Alameda’s chairman, on Las True Stories from San Antonio, and similar criticism on the more even-keeled, and you’ve got a situation.

Since its inception in April, the Alameda has gone through enough drama to start a telenovela. And although the lively stories and scathing details give us some juicy leads for stories, we really do want to see the Alameda succeed and bring in culturally significant pieces and people to the museum (not to mention a broader crowd).

What 2008 has in store for the Alameda we’re not quite sure yet. But we do give credit to the museum’s recent success. With the unveiling this month of the Alex Rubio and Vincent Valdez exhibition, plenty of locals are celebrating a job well done. In choosing two San Antonio artists’ work to be featured in the museum, it seems like the Museo might yet live up to its mission statement “to tell the story of the Latino experience in America through art, history, and culture.”

Jennifer Herrera


The root of all ill will

CASE: HOT arts fund diversion NO. 678102
SEE ALSO:Cutting out the CAB,” October 17-23, 2007

Matthew. Levi. Apostle of Ethiopia. Patron saint of accountants, bookkeepers, and financial officers. Keep careful watch over the guardians of the $800,000 in HOT fund arts money that went astray at City Council this fall on its way to the Office of Cultural Affairs. Sit on the shoulders of the Alameda and Luminaria, opposite that old devil Immediate Gratification, and whisper a sweet New Testament reminder: “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”

Or perhaps a latter-day ploughman in the rocky fields of the republic puts it more plainly. “`OCA` had an exhaustive months-on-end process to be able to find an equitable way to award grant money, with the inclusion of key stakeholders ... we agreed to a plan, brought it to council, they voted yes on it,” preaches Cultural Arts Board Chairman Nelson Balido. Only to watch as the mayor and council made a grab for this year’s HOT surplus for their own pet projects, free of the public scrutiny provided by OCA and CAB’s funding process.

“I believe the spirit of that plan has still been violated,” saith Balido. (Preach it!) Violated to this day, even, as checks are written to breathe life into the cold clay of the mayor’s arts festival. Balido is willing to confront the City Hall moneychangers, if the constituents will follow — a task left in the able hands of Esperanza, custodians of the moral and legal high ground in the form of the 2001 Esperanza v. City of San Antonio ruling, which they believe requires COSA to follow a transparent, equitable procedure in all arts-funding decisions involving public cash. Unfortunately, they’re a little busy right now fighting the City’s expensive new parade ordinance (how many free-speech marches could $800,000 underwrite? An accounting task for the Guadalupana herself), but Esperanza Director Graciela Sanchez says they’ll be calling apostles to the cause early in the new year.

“I guess we’ll see who believes in procedure and who doesn’t,” prophesies Balido.

Of course, it’s not too late for the City to make it right (before, say, another $315,000 is winging its way to the Alameda, sans citizen review, for 2009), for as Christopher Dodd averred to Deborah Solomon, there is no saint without a past, no sinner without a future.

Elaine Wolff



Chuck Kerr

Confessions of some dangerous minds
A “Where Are They Now” of SA filmmakers profiled by the Current in ’07

CASE: TX Film Incentive NO. THX-1138
SEE ALSO: “Here, movie movie,” July 18-24, 2007

Bret Mauser
Director: Dawg’s Life, Barrio Angelz

“We’re still working on our 10-film saga `aka “The Poderous Saga”`. We just started it in October. We should be screening the first film in the first or second week of February. We’re already finished getting all the footage from the first film. We’re about 60 percent of the way through the first three … As long as we keep on the current schedule we’ll be finished with the first eight films by the end of March.

We have a trailer up now. Just a little sneak preview teaser; it doesn’t give anything away, just lets people know what we’re doing up on our website. We’ve been just buried in that right now. Things are going great with the actors and the talent, I think we’re using almost every actor in San Antonio on this project cause it’s such a big project. But everything we’ve gotten is golden.”

Bryan Ortiz
Director: Dr. S and the Sex Crazed Reefer Zombies

“I’ve shown Dr. S `and the Sex Crazed Reefer Zombies`, our horror movie, several different times at other theaters `besides the Aztec` with a massively huge response and got really good feedback from different people in different parts of the United States, which is really exciting. We decided to take a break after we were done with the big opening and then decided a few weeks ago that we’re going to go back and upgrade it even more … We took a lot of great suggestions from a lot of fans and lot of audience members and we kind of want to go with that …

Now, as we gear up to finish this film, we’re already having nice backing and a good follow-up for the next film to come up after that, whatever that may be.”

Dora Pena
Director: The Dreamhealer

“We submitted a rough-cut that I cut of our feature film The Dreamhealer which has … a BIG local cast … for the Sundance entry. We didn’t make Sundance, but that’s OK, because the film wouldn’t’ve been done anyway — we’re still composing. We have an original new score being composed by Federico Chavez-Blanco, who we’re really excited to have … We have been screening small bits of the film `for King William Association and the Office of Cultural Affairs` … We’re testing the audience and giving them a taste of what’s to come. The film, right now, is in Mexico with our director of photography/editor who will make the final cut … I basically told him to change whatever you want from what I did, because I’m not a professional editor.

I’m (OCA) artist of the month this month, and I was named one of the top-10 influential women in the Texas entertainment industry in SWAG (Southwest Actors Guide) magazine this month, so that’s all going to help, I think. We hope to premiere … maybe February, if not, March.

Trent Moran
Director: Balance

“We’re working on this film, we probably have two weeks to go, and we’re getting funding for another one coming up in January, and we’re going to try to shoot that here, and we’d like to — I’d like to basically call out a challenge to everyone in San Antonio: to quit being so small and to think big because we can do it. We have the size and we have the desire; we just don’t have the people that will get together. Everyone’s going their separate way and we all need to get together for at least one big project so we can get a bunch of little ones to stem off this. My email address `is` [email protected] if you have anything to add to it. If you have anything to say to me, do it. Let’s get it done. I’m serious.”


You may recall that Chris Eska’s August Evening nabbed Best Dramatic Feature at the LA Film Festival, but the emerging director can now add two more notches to his cinematic bedpost: Evening has been nominated for two Spirit Awards, the John Cassavetes Award (given to the best feature made for under $500,000) and Best Male Lead (for Peter Castaneda’s performance).

According to Eska, Evening was Castaneda’s first shot at acting, and he now finds himself nominated alongside such talent as Don Cheadle, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tony Leung, and Frank Langella. Holy crap.

Eska is currently in the process of obtaining the right representation (that’s an agent, natch) and gearing up for the theatrical release of August Evening in late spring. He is considering two ideas for a follow-up project, one of which could be shot in Texas or India. We’re hoping for the former, just so we can keep tabs …

Ashley Lindstrom


Texas Film Incentive

In case you’ve been living under a rock (or haven’t noticed the pecan-pie half-moon on the Texas Film Commission’s home page with the words “Production in Texas just got sweeter” hovering above it like some kind of sentence rainbow): Texas, like its nearest neighbors to the east and west, now offers a film-incentive program — yep, you remember, Dennis Quaid was at the bill signing in June with Governor Good-hair — which is intended to lure motion-picture, television, and video-game production dollars and jobs into the Lone Star State. Unlike Louisiana and New Mexico, though, our grant sits at a measly 5 percent (6.25 percent in “underused” areas, lest we forget) — “everything’s bigger in Texas” our foot. To qualify for the (cough — puny) grant, filmmakers must spend a minimum of one mil, and shoot 80 percent of their footage within our bluebonnet-lined state borders.

Texas Film Commission Deputy Director Carol Pirie didn’t beat around the bush in a phone conversation with the Current, straight-up saying that a story on the progress of the incentive was “not going to be much of a story” as funding only became available in September. And of the rebate itself? Pirie says “It’s not high enough,” but that it’s a conversation-starter, at the very least. (We love this lady!) So far television commercials have been most active in using the incentive, according to Pirie, but two feature films have also applied.

Oooh — and what films might those be? Yeah, wouldn’t you like to know! (Us, too, actually.) Texas Film Commission Office Manager Robert Brown was tight-lipped on the subject: “I can’t discuss current applications.” Well, Bob (do you mind if we call you Bob?), aren’t you just a chamber of secrets.

We do happen to know, by way of Ken Ashe, executive producer of Jurassic Fight Club — a History Channel show in production locally at 1080 Entertainment with Wishbone producer Betty
Buckley — that JFC has applied for the grant and expects to hear back next year. Neato!

Ashley Lindstrom


Pace Art

CASE: Linda Pace Contemporary Art Museum NO. 578230

Linda Pace's "Red Project" No. 578230

The first time I was invited to one of Linda Pace’s homes, she served my then-boyfriend and me wine in one of the living areas. As my date set his glass down on a beautiful mosaic coffee table, he remarked that it looked just like an Etruscan floor.

“It is,” replied Pace with her wide smile, causing him to snatch the glass back into his hand.

The Artpace founder lived comfortably with art that many people find unsettling in galleries, much less their homes, but the overall effect was of an inviting, habitable art museum — one that favored the new and adventurous over the established, with a particular fondness for video-based work. When she died in July of this year, Pace left a 525-piece trove of mostly contemporary art to her eponymous foundation, which is charged with building a permanent exhibition and education space adjacent to the SoFlo Camp Street lofts and CHRISpark, the lovely private greenspace dedicated to her late son and designed in part by artist Teresita Fernández.

Three days before she passed away, Pace discussed the project with Tanzanian-born UK architect David Adjaye, who is lauded for his visionary use of materials and collaborations with artists such as Chris Ofili.

“She always liked to expose San Antonio to things it had not been exposed to before,” says foundation trustee Rick Moore. Pace wanted to find a way to show her collection to the public, but it was just as important to her to introduce a different type of building to the city.

Moore and his fellow trustees, including former Artpace Director Kathryn Kanjo and Pace’s biographer Jan Jarboe Russell, are in the “due diligence” phase, with a timeline of three to four years before the free museum will open its doors. As a private foundation, they won’t be competing for art dollars, says Moore, but they will consider additional art bequests.

In Linda’s perfect world, added Moore, she would have had the decade her doctor promised her to develop her public art space. “What a wonderful way to spend the next 10 years,” she would say. Now her foundation will do its best to realize the vision.

Elaine Wolff



Ars longa, vita brevis

By Jennifer Herrera
[email protected]

Linda Pace
SEE ALSO: “Dream in peace,” July 5-11, 2007

As each year passes it’s only natural we lose a significant member or two within our local arts community — but this year was especially hard. Prominent arts figure Linda Pace’s July passing was a shock to the city. San Antonio memorialized the Artpace founder, who died of complications from breast cancer at age 62, through various gatherings and dedications.

Pace’s legacy will live on not only through Artpace but the other countless organizations and individuals she helped along the way, including many of SA’s most successful artists — Franco Mondini-Ruiz and Jesse Amado to name two. Pace was an artist herself. She spent her last years dedicated to her art — using it somewhat as an escape while battling cancer — which was featured in this years’ Texas Biennial in Austin.

Artpace special-events and public-relations manager Celina Bustamante Emery said the organization is in the prelimary planning stages to honor Pace’s work. “We look at everything we do as a tribute to her,” Emery said. Artpace does its best by “maintain`ing` her high standards” with each project they sponsor. As for the Pace’s contemporary-art foundation, read “TK,” page 22.

Director and curator of Sala Diaz Hills Snyder will also be dedicating his latest off-beat exhibition, All Good Children (at Austin’s Gallery 68) to Pace on January 19, 2008 `with the Current’s Elaine Wolff as arresting officer`.

Steve Reynolds

A great loss to UTSA and the local arts community came with the March death of Steve Reynolds as a result of a brain tumor. A noted local ceramicist, Reynolds taught at UTSA from 1977 until his retirement in 2005. He also gained appeal outside the States, with his work being displayed in permanent collections in Australia and Hungary.

Regarded as a man that was dedicated to his profession, Reynolds taught for more than 40 years. He influenced students to showcase their own ideas, rather than try to replicate the ideas of others.

Reginald Rowe
SEE ALSO:Reggie Rowe & Alberto Mijangos,” June 27-July 3, 2007

After an arduous search for Reginald Rowe in early June — following reports that he was lost after walking his dog — he was found alive, only to die shortly thereafter of cardiac arrest. Rowe was a celebrated abstract painter whose work was showcased in a 1996 exhibition at the McNay Art Museum.

His life story reads like a classic film — Princeton graduate, World War II vet, friend of Ernest Hemingway — he lived his life to the fullest. Gallerist Joan Grona is planning a December 2008 show of Rowe’s works.

Alberto Mijangos
SEE ALSO:Reggie Rowe & Alberto Mijangos,” June 27-July 3, 2007

In June, Alberto Mijangos, the man behind SoFlo art-district gem Salon Mijangos, died of lymphoma. A highly regarded abstract painter, Mijangos was dedicated to his work, art-school-cum-gallery, and his family. As reported in “Gallery space to continue with legacy”`October 3, 2007` his family and Salon Mijangos curator Ben Judson decided to continue to operate the gallery.

Judson and Mijangos’s daughter Laura have since added on to the space with a selection of classes (introduced last week) including Dada collage, Mexican art history, and prose writing (a collaboration with St. Mary’s University).

Samuel Mirelez
SEE ALSO:Everything must go,” October 31-November 6, 2007

Some people may question naming a bird-house maker as an artist — but Samuel Mirelez was truly the exception. Mirelez’s entire yard became a wonderland of sorts — if not for the birds for his faithful followers — where one could find replicas of San Antonio points of interest like the Tower of the Americas or the Japanese Tea Garden pagoda.

Since his death in September, Mirelez’s family has suffered through the painful task of moving his pieces to other locales or selling them off. R.C. Gallery’s Rhonda Kuhlman, a loyal Mirelez fan, called upon the art community to help. Kuhlman calls Mirelez “a national treasure” with a following that extends well outside of Texas. Austin’s folk-art haven Yard Dog carries a few Mirelez’s works, most of which have already been sold. Mirelez’s work was also featured in the book Detour Art – Outsider, Folk Art, and Visionary Folk Art Environments Coast to Coast. •

Year in Review: News


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