Best Of 2005

Best of SA 2005 - Arts Turning our face to the dawn

Best of SA 2005 - Arts Turning our face to the dawn
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'Best of' voters wallow in 'Memory,' while visionaries build the cultural districts of tomorrow

Current readers voted family members Louis and Paul Lubbering Best Teacher, but Eduardo Rodriguez ranks high among our critics. The associate professor in visual arts at San Antonio College earned a BFA and MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before returning to teach at SAC where he completed a portion of his undergraduate studies. Rodriguez' abstract paintings, which combine elements of modernism and minimalism, can be seen at Joan Grona Gallery. (Photo by Alicia Wagner Calzada)

"I remember the time I knew what happiness was / Let the memory live again ... "

Ah, San Antonio, a city that often seems frozen in time. Like during Best of San Antonio. Elsewhere the year is 2005, but in SA, pastoral scenes of bluebonnets still win the hearts of many a fair collector and new book titles be damned. In a year in which local publisher WINGS celebrated its 10th anniversary and newly reborn Trinity University Press released its first slate of titles, we clutched 2003's Caramelo to our breast when we weren't reading self-published self-help titles.

Artpace, Linda Pace's innovative artist residency program, also turned 10 this year, as Pace herself celebrates 60. But our voters eschewed contemporary art, voting for talented practitioners of impressionism and other genteel styles. The Blue Star galleries might take a cue from some of our get-out-the-vote savvy winners (yes, we mean you, Comedia A Go-Go) and hand out forms to those SRO crowds at First Friday.

Best of SA 2005

Readers' picks - Best Arts
Click here to see our readers' choices
The Theater and Peformance results were more encouraging, as the productions that won actually were produced here in the preceding 12 months. Nonetheless, we displayed our penchant for sitcom punchlines by voting for Cats, that old Andrew Lloyd Weber fur ball that the Great White Way coughed up on the Midwest a few years back. Then again, the lyrics caterwauled by the tattered grand dame Grizabella, "Burnt out ends of smoky days / The stale cold smell of morning ... " seem particularly apt for our town during Fiesta, which, in case a miracle cure has just rescued you from a persistent vegetative state, begins next week.

Developer James Lifshutz, who is expanding the Blue Star Arts Complex and the Blue Star Silos, wins kudos for building on his father's tradition of combining art and business in downtown mixed-use properties. (Photo by Mark Greenberg)

"Memory / All alone in the moonlight / I can smile at the old days / I was beautiful then ... "

In addition to some snappy, and occasionally snarky, prose to garland our readers' choices, the Current's arts staff presents a handful of profiles of individuals from whom, based on recent performance, we expect great things in the near future. As we do of you, dear reader, who is commanded to pick up a pen in 2006 and VOTE!

"Daylight / See the dew on the sunflower / And a rose that is fading ... "

Not our San Antonio rose, though, thanks in large part to the efforts of former mayor and current County Judge Nelson Wolff (no relation to Elaine Wolff). As mayor in the early '90s, Wolff advocated for the creation of the Alameda, the organization that has since partnered with the Kennedy Center and the Smithsonian and is responsible for renovating the historic Alameda Theatre and the Casa de México International Building, as well as building and operating the Museo Americano. More recently, he proposed the creation of the fledgling Bexar County Arts and Cultural Fund (aka theFund), which will operate a United Way-style employee contribution funding program for local arts organizations. Wolff has also been a supporter of the sometimes beleaguered San Antonio Lyric Opera, and has championed its move to the Municipal Auditorium. His idea of a junket? Visit a nationally renowned performing arts high school - a model for a performing arts campus Wolff would like to see SAISD establish downtown ... rumors say that it might be connected to the Alameda. In his free time, Wolff dreams up ways to connect San Antonio's struggling downtown cultural district with its thriving Southtown neighbor.

Planet of the Tapes proprietrix Angela Martinez keeps her finger in a half-dozen pies, including the online community calendar, Southtown's Oscar night fundraiser, and the summertime outdoor film fest Movies on the Slab. (Photo by Laura McKenzie)

"Midnight / Not a sound from the pavement ... "

So often too true of downtown San Antonio, even on a weekend evening. But if the folks behind the new RADIUS collaboration have their way, the silent urban desert around Municipal Auditorium will leap to life. RADIUS is an interesting concept in non-profit organization that offers office and performance space for small non-profits, historic preservation, and commercial offices on Auditorium Circle. The plan is to provide a centralized, cooperative home base for rehearsals and monthly performances by the tenants, generating a locus for arts activity and collaboration. Based on a co-op model but with a for-profit mentality, RADIUS is the brainchild of Paul Carter, whose historic family home sits just behind the old Studebaker showroom that now houses RADIUS. RADIUS provides low-cost, beautiful office space for several performing arts organizations, including the Alamo City Men's Chorale, the Children's Chorus of San Antonio, Dance Umbrella, and the Bexar County Arts & Cultural Fund. Commercial anchor tenants Creative Civilization, one of SA's premier PR firms, and RADIUS Café, scheduled to open next month, add an extra dimension of activity and stability to the non-profit arm of RADIUS.

Jump-Start co-founder Steve Bailey recently changed titles again. Now he's the educational director at the 20-year-old avant-garde theater company, where his facilitation, collaborative design, and lighting continue to draw rave reviews from peers and audiences. (Photo by Laura McKenzie)

"Daylight / I must wait for the sunrise / I must think of a new life ... "

Developer James Lifshutz, son of the late great Bernard, regularly dreams up new life for worn-out pieces of property. With a hand in no less than four downtown riverfront properties, stretching from the San Antonio Museum of Art to the Blue Star Silos `see "No Dick's need apply," March 17-23, 2005`, we hope Lifshutz will continue to be a force for revitalization and business-arts collaboration in the city's central districts.

Business and community synergy comes naturally to recent transplant Angela Martinez. She's been here only four years, but already this Robert Frost-quoting, bird-loving, hard-bowlin' movie fanatic has made an indelible mark on San Antonio's Southtown community. In that time she's co-founded independent movie rental store Planet of the Tapes, helped revive Hermann and Son's bowling alley, launched an outdoor film series at the slab, built the community calendar website, and contributed much time and love to the Southtown neighborhood organization board.

County Judge Nelson Wolff never seems to tire of dreaming up new ways to improve downtown San Antonio. He recently facilitated the San Antonio Lyric Opera's move to the Municipal Auditorium and the creation of the Bexar County Arts & Culture Fund. Next up: a downtown performing arts high school, and a well-traveled route from Southtown to Houston Street. (Photo by Mark Greenberg)

Ask her what she's been up to lately, and Martinez will briefly mention her day job - designing websites for non-profits and artists - and then steer the conversation to her latest community-building project, such as Southtown's Oscar night party fundraiser held February 27. RACSO has raised more than $4,000 for Southtown's Mainstreet Alliance, which Martinez says is great but not the soul of the endeavor: She observes merchants and neighbors working together to create RACSO, and believes that collaboration helps strengthen Southtown as a community.

What drives this focus? "In part, it's that we have a child and we really want to build a nurturing environment for him to grow up in," says Martinez. "But it's also San Antonio; this place really let's you make a difference."

"The streetlamp dies, another night is over / Another day is dawning ... "

And Jump-Start's Steve Bailey will be there to greet it. Bailey is no longer in transition. "We've actually quit using the word," he says, referring to Jump-Start Performance Co., the artist-run, community-based, progressive theater organization he helped found in 1985. "We're just who we are, and that involves constant change."

As Jump-Start enters its 20th year of continuous artistic and financial growth and increasing national recognition, and Bailey changes job titles for a third time (from artistic director to executive director to educational director), the ability to embrace change will serve them both well.

"If you touch me / You'll understand what happiness is / If you give me a cookie / I will understand what happiness is ... "

The company, initially formed to present new work that engaged social issues and experimented with form, has grown into a multidisciplinary, multicultural powerhouse with a significant roster of education programs. "Adapting a progressive arts teaching methodology to different kinds of populations, that's an artistry," says Bailey. His facilitation (he prefers the term to "direction") of performance work, his collaborative co-creation of company work, and his unapologetically aesthetic lighting designs have earned him critical raves and a devoted local following.

Commercial success, though, was never on the wish list. What was? "Working in a theater, with people I like, collaborating on shows and not feeling like I'm compromising," he says. "And that's happened."

"If you touch me / You'll understand what happiness is / Look / A new day has begun ... "

The Current salutes all of the movers, shakers, and anonymous worker bees - too numerous to mention here - who touch the Alamo City and leave it richer than they found it. Thanks to their efforts, a cultural renaissance has begun.

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