Street art entices venturing under the overpass

Quincy and St. Mary’s Street under I-35. Not a destination that ever crossed our minds for a walk from King William. That is until this weekend.

More than a dozen San Antonio artists,* organized by the private artist-driven San Antonio Street Art Initiative, tackled the unsightly interstate underpinnings and redefined the homely parking lot leased by the Wyndham Super 8 Hotel into an admission-free outdoor museum.

Composed of leaders of the city’s vibrant street arts scene, SASAI’s mission is to introduce and educate the local community about street and mural art and make our city a destination for street art lovers….

We seek to build and strengthen a street art community here that extends across all areas, activities and people. Street art makes neighborhoods vibrant. Street art extends the arts community outside the walls of museums, brings people to see new places to live and play, provides fresh perspectives for the young and old.

We are focusing initially on developing a visit friendly area in the city featuring a concentrated number of murals that will draw daily foot traffic, cyclists and visitors looking for an alternative beyond traditional tourist routes and attractions.

San Antonio Street Art Initiative

This is an amazingly ambitious and highly successful project.

So looking forward to seeing more.

Financial support for continued artistic efforts is welcomed on the website.

*Identifying who designed each mural was somewhat of an internet scavenger hunt for me…. Corrections are not just welcomed but encouraged.

Processing Art through Public Filters, Part Two

whitewashedOn the left side of the photo on the right is a wall.

The wall, prepped for painting, is not architecturally stunning.

In fact, one could say it is architecturally challenged.

Perhaps that is why the artist wanted to make a monkey out of it.

monkeyBut this building is located in the King William Historic District, and, according to the San Antonio Express-News, some of its residents evidently felt Robert Tatum’s Chi Chi Monkey made a mockery of the neighborhood.

tame-birdSo the artist came up with a rendering for a tame bird sporting a Tyrolean hat perched outside a gingerbready bird house, all nods to the characteristics of the neighborhood.

Some of the residents were happy.

But, upon further reflection, the artist was not.

He must have felt as though he had his wings clipped.

This tame bird is not representative of his art, and this bird house is on the outside wall of his office.

cuckoo-birdSo he transformed the bird into something more reflective of his style, more of a wild-eyed cuckoo bird too big-headed to fit into his house.

This bird looks much more like Tatum’s style, but some of the neighbors balked at the new one.

The frustrated artist told reporter Scott Huddleston it will be his prized bird or no bird at all.

The poor members of the Historic Design and Review Commission are left in the middle, stuck walking the tightrope between artistic integrity and the strict enforcement of guidelines of the historic district.

I’m rooting for the cuckoo.

Sometimes we take ourselves so seriously, we kill the spirit of things. “We” includes me. Sometimes.

I draw a rigid line in the sand when it comes to protecting sensitive areas, such as the Alamo Plaza Historic District. I’ve even gone so far as to label myself Alamobsessive about it.

But South Alamo in Southtown is not across from the Alamo. And this building is not nestled among stately residences.

It’s in more of the entertainment part of the neighborhood. People walking by the back side of this building are most likely on their way to art galleries or restaurants.

And this wall is not exactly in pedestrians’ faces. It is set way back from the sidewalk and street.

But what about its across-the-street neighbor? Well, that’s got to be about the most laid-back, relaxed place around – The Friendly Spot. The cartoonish cuckoo bird will fit right in and should delight the kids scampering over the Spot’s playscape while their parents gather with friends.

The photo below shows the current wall when viewed from the entrance of The Friendly Spot.


You probably are thinking I posted the wrong photo. But no. That’s the proposed canvas, way back behind the red SUV, tucked unobtrusively between two buildings. If the bird’s features are not exaggerated, they won’t show up at all.

The tame version of the mural is like the Mission Drive-In, where the spirit of the original art was put in a straitjacket.

Art should reflect its creator. In this location, there seems no need to over-process it in the name of King William’s integrity.

Let that cuckoo bird fly free.

Update on March 7, 2013: Alas, Mr. Tatum, if you had only showed up at the HDRC meeting to plead your case and get a fair hearing, the cuckoo might be perched on your wall instead of caged in my blog.