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Wildlife viewing blinds at Phil Hardberger Park combine public art with appreciation of nature 

click to enlarge One of two steel wildlife blinds designed by artists Ashley Mireles and Cade Bradshaw for the Phil Hardberger Park land bridge. - EMILY SCHMALSTIEG
  • Emily Schmalstieg
  • One of two steel wildlife blinds designed by artists Ashley Mireles and Cade Bradshaw for the Phil Hardberger Park land bridge.
A pair of unique steel blinds designed to blend nature and art bring a  thoughtful addition to the new Robert L.B. Tobin Land Bridge at Phil Hardberger Park in north San Antonio.

The blinds — placed strategically on either side of the land bridge spanning busy Wurzbach Parkway — allow visitors to take a break from their hike across the structure and experience a glimpse of Texas plants and wildlife.

In a combined effort, San Antonio artists Ashley Mireles and Cade Bradshaw designed and constructed the blinds, which integrate with the land bridge and bring together the two sides of the park in a way that benefits both wildlife and visitors.

Mireles' blind includes bold cut-outs depicting a wide range of plants native to San Antonio. Among the featured flora are flowing Texas mountain laurel, prickly pear and bushy bluestem.

"The wildlife blind is very much the same to a lot of the murals I've done," she told the Current. "I've noticed there is a difference in the work I do that is really meant for the public. I worked to create a narrative depending on what the plants represent, whether it's time, or like a cultural history, or symbolism and so on."

Mireles found inspiration working with steel for the first time on a large-scale project.

"I really hadn't worked with steel at all, so making something that was 3D and having that imagery and seeing the light go through creates new ideas," she said. "It definitely makes me consider different types of materials for possible public art projects in the future."

click to enlarge Bradshaw's blind features integrates both topography and San Antonio wildlife in its design. - EMILY SCHMALSTIEG
  • Emily Schmalstieg
  • Bradshaw's blind features integrates both topography and San Antonio wildlife in its design.
Bradshaw's structure features intricate steel cut-outs of a topographic conservation map of northern San Antonio. That is overlaid with layers of metal featuring cut-outs in the shapes of San Antonio wildlife, including a larger-than-life armadillo, a freetail bat and the elusive bobcat.

"I was intrigued by how much earth was being added to create the slope for the bridge, so then I started thinking more about the project," he said. "It felt like we were sort of like stretching earth like fabric ... and creating a whole new ecosystem. I found that really intriguing, so I thought I should address that in some way. I wanted to be sure and address both the physical landscape and the animals."

Both blinds blend in with the native landforms and surrounding plant life. The openings in the metal invite in sunlight, creating intricate shadows that seem to dance across the shelters' inner walls and floor.

"I think the screen concept and the movement you can sense, and your perception of light and dark," Bradshaw said.

The artists' blinds top off a cohesive project designed to give urban spectators the chance to interact with the Texas outdoors through art. Visitors can access both blinds from all entrances to Hardberger Park.

"People are really excited to visit the bridge and the two blinds," Bradshaw said. "Everyone is really excited to see the plants grow up, and it come alive and become a lush environment."

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January 26, 2022

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