Playspace of Yanaguana Garden bursts into bloom October 2

A spiraling “Blue Hole” at the center of Oscar Alvarado’s elongated serpentine mosaic bench is one of many features defining a sense of place in the soon-to-be-unveiled Yanaguana Garden at the southeast corner of Hemisfair. The Blue Hole north of Brackenridge Park is the spring feeding the river in the land native Payaya Indians referred to as Yanaguana.

Opening to the public the weekend of October 2, Yanaguana Garden is an admission-free playscape for young and old with water features for splashing, swings of all types, giant chess boards, a bocce court, pingpong tables, benches for sitting, a sandbox for crafting drip castles, “trees” for climbing and actual mature trees for shading. The springy base cushioning the areas under climbing structures is amazingly soft to walk across.

The engaging interactive public art created by a team of San Antonio artists led by Stuart Allen carries out the playful theme, including playhouses, metal puptents by Joey Fauerso, Allen’s how-to-build-a-kite bench, Jen Khoshbin’s stage for plays and a sound installation by Justin Boyd. These touch-me works of art were administered by Public Art San Antonio (PASA) with funds provided by the 2012-2017 bond program.

All of these elements are nestled respectfully among historic homes, remnants of the original neighborhood eliminated by HemisFair ’68. These are being repurposed to weave a portion of the fabric that will form a new neighborhood as Hemisfair continues to evolve.

Design for the playscape fell under the guidance of landscape architect Susan Goltsman, president of MIG. Based in Berkeley, California, the design firm prides itself for building inclusive environments.

For those who are not within walking distance of this new addition to the ‘hood, arrangements have been made for free parking in three large lots on the south side of Cesar Chavez (Charango) Boulevard on opening weekend.

To find out more about contributing to reshape Hemisfair, visit https://www.hemisfairconservancy.org.

Processing Art through Public Filters, Part One

UTSA Libraries Special Collections
UTSA Libraries Special Collections

When completed the Mission Drive‐in Theatre will serve as an icon for preservation and neighborhood re‐development….

The project goal is to complete the approved mural components of the Historic Mission Drive‐In Marquee in a way that follows recommendations of the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Buildings, and stays consistent with the historic period….

…all viable methods of re‐creating the mural, sign lettering and lighting feature will be considered, provided that the completed work re‐creates the style, color and graphic quality of the original mural and components as closely as possible.

Public Art San Antonio, 2012 RFP

Historic Mission Drive-In Marquee Re-Creation

The resulting illumination of the marquee mural instantly makes the old Mission Drive-In Theatre a striking night-time landmark on the south side.

Public Art San Antonio
Public Art San Antonio

But there is something missing.

KENS-5 TV
KENS-5 TV

The new mural is soul-less, devoid of the human presence that characterized the original.

Instead of a re-creation, the design was sanitized following public protests in several contentious meetings.

A sombrero-porting Latino leading a donkey, a beast of burden sparing many a worker from debilitating back injuries, and one napping under a sombrero are both regarded as racial stereotyping.

I concede there was a time when many Anglos viewed such images and uttered the racial slur “lazy Mexicans.” Call me naïve, but I like to think we have moved beyond that point.

Sombrerería in Mexico City, Late 1800s, Underwood & Underwood stereoview card: "The ordinary sombreros are made of palm-leaves and straw, but those of the wealthier classes are of expensive felt, and may be white, gray, or maroon in color. They are often very ornate, being embroidered with the wearer's monogram, or designs of flowers, and faced with gold or silver lace. In Mexico, only the men wear hats, and they are a very valued  possession. Sometimes a man will invest his entire fortune of thirty or forty dollars in his sombrero. They are frequently of vast dimensions. The larger the sombrero, in fact, the greater its aesthetic value in the eye of the average Mexican. The flourish with which he doffs it in salute is something never to be forgotten by the unaccustomed foreigner."
Sombrerería in Mexico City, late 1800s, Underwood & Underwood stereoview card: “The ordinary sombreros are made of palm-leaves and straw, but those of the wealthier classes are of expensive felt, and may be white, gray, or maroon in color. They are often very ornate, being embroidered with the wearer’s monogram, or designs of flowers, and faced with gold or silver lace. In Mexico, only the men wear hats, and they are a very valued possession. Sometimes a man will invest his entire fortune of thirty or forty dollars in his sombrero. They are frequently of vast dimensions. The larger the sombrero, in fact, the greater its aesthetic value in the eye of the average Mexican. The flourish with which he doffs it in salute is something never to be forgotten by the unaccustomed foreigner.”

My hope is, rather than erase the existence of sombreros from our collective memory, we honorably embrace them as part of our heritage in San Antonio.

Here is why:

  • San Antonio was part of Mexico for longer than it has been part of the United States.
  • Mexicans who worked outside in the hot sun wore sombreros. They were smart.
  • The crown of a sombrero can be angled to follow the sun like a sunflower, shading both the face and the neck.
  • Hardworking people who rose long before the sun and worked until after it went down could use their sombreros for shelter while taking well-deserved naps.
  • People who sport gimme caps get red necks. No additional comment necessary.
mi sombrero guapo
mi sombrero guapo

I’m all for a sombrero resurgence. I’m doing my part.

Yes, I know this aging gringa looks foolish wearing her broad-brimmed caballera hat, complete with a horsetail-hair stampede string to hold it in place when the wind threatens to send it swirling.

But time has taught me a few things. I grew up on a beach trying to keep up with tan people. I merely burned and freckled. A slow learner, I repeated the process over and over, summer after summer.

I’m part of a freckled race that old Dr. Pipkin said had no business south of Ireland. But I hate cold and love hot sauce.

Because I was not wise enough to learn from experience, I had, what I told the Mister was in his honor, an upside-down, backwards “L” carved in my chest. But that “L” actually represents the third letter of melanoma.

I’m only telling you this so, when you see me wearing my caballera hat walking along the Mission Reach, you won’t make fun of me in front of me. My sombrero represents a self-preservation technique I learned from old postcards, from photos of men like those who used to grace the Mission Drive-In marquee.

san-antonio-market

And, yes, some of the postcards were condescending in tone. But the photos were of real people, real people living in San Antonio who wore sensible hats when going about their daily business.

At this latitude, the sombrero-toting figure appears the smart one. Having a red neck is no sign of intelligence; it’s just asking to be branded with one of those “L’s.”

If only I had one of those back-saving burros to port that case of two-buck Chuck up to the kitchen….

Temporary art installations illuminate downtown storefronts

Had difficulty deciding whether to tamper with the whimsical excitement of encountering unexpected illuminated art in vacant storefronts. To tour or not to tour?

But the Mister gamely rushed home in his reverse-commute so we could arrive at the 5:30 start time for the opening walk of Cut and Paste, a continuation of Public Art San Antonio’s X Marks the Art series of public art installations. And then we waited. And waited. We considered just walking on our own, but, given the number of people at the weeknight gathering competing with Mardi Gras celebrations, bailing out seemed rude. In defense of PASA, this probably was the planned “reception” time, we just would have preferred to have not rushed and, instead, to have arrived at 6:15.

Finally, 45 minutes later, the art walk got under way.

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Rather than rely on random chance encounters, we were happy we waited for the walk because of the opportunity to hear several of the artists explain the rationale behind their work. As curator, Cruz Ortiz did a spectacular job of assembling a dynamic group of installations.

Visit the website, and follow the X’s around downtown. The displays will be up through May. Or go on the next after-work tour, which actually is billed as lasting an hour so should begin right at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12, on the riverside plaza, Argo Plaza, at 175 East Houston Street.