2015 Arts and Culture Year in Review

Hotel Emma opened in November as one of San Antonio's premier boutique hotels. - COURTESY
Hotel Emma opened in November as one of San Antonio's premier boutique hotels.

Like every year in San Antonio, 2015 was chock full of exciting, important and innovative happenings in the realm of arts and culture. From stellar exhibitions to new business openings, from updates to old favorites to brand new favorites, from shakeups and milestones to key leadership changes — these are the 10 developments we found most impactful in 2015 and well worth keeping an eye on in the new year.

The DoSeum Opens • When the DoSeum, the new San Antonio Children’s Museum, opened its doors back in June, people took note. The state-of-the-art, sustainably built facility on Broadway kept the best parts of the old Children’s Museum and updated the rest. For the past six months, under the direction of CEO Vanessa Lacoss Hurd and her team, the DoSeum has practiced its philosophy of learning-by-doing. And, with a plethora of engaging programming, for adults and kids alike, this contemporary learning wonderland promises to remain a hub of education in our community.

Hotel Emma Opens • Hotel Emma, the crown jewel of The Pearl’s extensive collection of gems, opened its doors in November. The 146-room boutique hotel — named for the former brewmaster’s wife Emma Koehler, who ran the brewery after his death in 1914 — is a glorious tribute to the history, culture and eclectic yet rustic style of San Antonio. Boasting an elegant restaurant, a library, a beautiful bar, a quaint little grocery store and a truly one of a kind experience, Hotel Emma is a game changer.

The San Antonio Museum of Art's contemporary collection has been curated by Anna Stothart since February 2015. - FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS
Flickr Creative Commons
The San Antonio Museum of Art's contemporary collection has been curated by Anna Stothart since February 2015.

Anna Stothart Takes the Contemporary Helm at SAMA • For a world-class art museum, the Contemporary Curator position is something akin to the quarterback of a football team: just as necessary as any other position, but more glamorous and challenging all the same. As of February 2015, the San Antonio Museum of Art’s Brown Foundation Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art position belongs to Anna Stothart, who earned her Master’s in Art History and Museum Studies from Tufts University and has previously served as Assistant Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.

Blue Star Gets its Groove Back Under the Direction of Mary Heathcott • Since February 2014, ever since she departed her position as Deputy Director at Artpace San Antonio to take up the Executive Director reigns at Blue Star, Mary Heathcott has been in the business of making Blue Star great again. Her curatorial choices are visionary in their cohesiveness (between the four galleries) and engagement with important currents in the larger art world, and her management has reinvigorated and refocused the organization. With these recent trends, we couldn’t be more excited to see what 2016 holds for Blue Star.

Contemporary Art Month Turns 30 • In March, Contemporary Art Month celebrated its 30th year. That it is still alive and, in fact, thriving is a testament to the vision of its organizers and the necessary role that it plays in our city. Above all, CAM is a key resource for young, up-and-coming artists to reach a larger audience with their work and to find motivation, encouragement and outlets to continue their pursuit of the arts. Here’s to another 30.

Pantera azul is one of the new public art pieces unveiled in Yanaguana Garden. - BRYAN RINDFUSS
Bryan Rindfuss
Pantera azul is one of the new public art pieces unveiled in Yanaguana Garden.

Yanaguana Garden Opens • There has been a great deal of excitement in San Antonio this year surrounding new developments in old spaces: the missions, The Pearl, etc. One such development has been the proposed transformation of Hemisfair Park, which included this year’s unveiling of Yanaguana Garden. The 4.1-acre garden and playground is part gathering space, part play place and part permanent (and stunning) outdoor art exhibit, which pays tribute to, at least in part, the region’s indigenous roots.

Southwest School of Art Turns 50, Welcomes “Legacy” BFA Class • A San Anto arts and culture fixture since its founding in 1965, the Southwest School of Art notched its 50th year of arts education, exhibition and outreach this year. To mark the occasion, the school celebrated its new Bachelor of Fine Arts class as its legacy class and detailed the success of the 50th Anniversary Capital Campaign, which brought in millions of dollars in donor funds designated to plan for expansion, support scholarships and continue historic preservation efforts.

Ballet San Antonio, now 30, will now be lead by Willy Shives. - COURTESY
Ballet San Antonio, now 30, will now be lead by Willy Shives.

Ballet San Antonio Turns 30, Artistic Director Leaves • When both Executive Director Courtney Mauro Barker and Artistic Director Gabriel Zertuche called it quits in August, Ballet San Antonio was left in a state of uncertainty, despite a new home at the Tobin Center and the celebration of its 30th year. The talented duo raised Ballet SA’s profile over their tenure since 2012 and some feared a regression would follow their departure.

New Artistic Director Willy Shives, a ballet master and native Texan who comes back to us after years of experience with Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet, had this to say on the matter: “I feel I have so much to offer the company and the timing of this appointment couldn’t have been better. The dancers are hungry for strong leadership, and I have no question in my mind that I can take them to the next level.”

Anjali Gupta Takes the Torch from Hills Snyder at Sala Diaz • Sala Diaz has been an important player in both the exhibition and creation of contemporary art in San Antonio since its founding in 1995. This year, after nearly 20 years as its Artistic Director, San Anto renaissance man Hills Snyder officially turned over operations to Anjali Gupta, who has been running the Casa Chuck residency program at Sala Diaz since 2013. While she will begin 2016 by finishing out Snyder’s programming, we can expect her own stamp on things to become apparent by next fall.

Hot Wells Designated as a Protected Site • Recent coal spill notwithstanding, San Antonio’s Hot Wells — the warm, sulfurous springs near the Edwards Aquifer’s saline/fresh water interface on the city’s Southeast side — won quite a victory this October, when Bexar County officially agreed to take over the property and transform it into an educational park. Following a history laden with mishaps and long sitting in various states of abandonment, Hot Wells’ future in the county’s hands seems bright and bubbly (pun intended).

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