What is your idea of San Antonio? We caught up with four San Antonio artists of different backgrounds to find out what the city means to them. Whether they discussed work, family, leisure time, or other activities, it was clear they all had their own idea about the city’s significance — and what makes it so special.
San Antonio Westside resident Eduardo Garza is the founder of the Jazz Poets of San Antonio, Teatro Poecía, and Radio Aztlán San Anto, among other artistic pursuits.
“What San Antonio means to me is home, for at least 20 generations going back to the 1600s, when my immediate family’s ancestors were part of this thriving riverside community,” he says.
“San Antonio means a place where I can express myself in all my creative pursuits, including art, music, poetry, dance, and acting. I’ve been in hundreds of commercials, both radio and television, and exhibited in many of the galleries and venues."
The poet traced his family history to the Apache tribes, who once brought cattle, horses, other livestock, and handmade wares to San Antonio before European people arrived; through the founding of the San Antonio Missions; the time of the Aztec roaming bands; and the establishment of Spanish land grants.
“I’ve inherited a legacy of upper-middle class knowledge and teachings of the English-speaking people and the Spanish-speaking people,” Garza says. “Being part of Native American spirituality — it means a home for my tribe, which can be called my immediate family — uncles, grandparents, aunts, my children, and grandchildren.”
Garza connected us to Flores, an artist with a working studio at the Blue Star Arts Complex, who now resides in an historic farmhouse across the street from Jefferson High School in the Deco District.
Originally from Fort Stockton, Texas, Flores came to San Antonio in 1974 to attend graduate school. “It felt so warm and welcoming and so good to be here,” she says. “Now I feel like it’s my home.”
“I think San Antonio has influenced my work. When I was in graduate school, I painted a lot of rooftops — I would sit in my car and paint watercolors. Eventually I decided I wanted to do landmarks. I’d study the Missions, a really nice angle of a cathedral.”
Flores has shown her artwork in many venues throughout San Antonio. She just completed a show at Centro de Artes and is planning a series of pictures and videos showcasing the city. The project is inspired, in part, by her years as a schoolteacher on the Southside, where she admired the beautiful buildings along Presa Street.
“One day, I just made up my mind and took my little digital camera to South Presa Street and took these photos that turned out like paintings,” she says.
Flores describes the beautiful old houses in her neighborhood and how she searched for a house in the area to give it her own personal touch — an orange farmhouse that her daughter and son will inherit one day.
Some San Antonio residents are from another country altogether, such as Crimean artist Alexandra Nelipa, a resident of the King William Neighborhood, who worked with SRO Associates, Inc. to feature her “Battle for Texas” display at the Shops at Rivercenter.
“I love San Antonio because of its rich multicultural heritage,” she says. “I love Tejano music. The Spanish Missions [are] my favorite destination for bicycling and inspiration for paintings.”
Nelipa has painted a variety of San Antonio scenery, from the sun rising on the River Walk near the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center to a cloudy sky and intersection along Fredericksburg Road to a man wearing a mariachi suit in the Spanish Governor’s Palace.
The artist is currently working on a historical project with the Sisters of Charity at the University of the Incarnate Word and has an exhibit on display at High Wire Arts Gallery through the end of August.
“I live in a gorgeous 101-year-old German house in the King William neighborhood, and I cannot imagine myself living somewhere far from downtown,” Nelipa says.
For graphic artist, illustrator, and web developer Guy Nuesca, who lives near the medical center, San Antonio is more than just a definition or a place on the map, but it can be summed up in a few words: food, culture, history, fun, and life in a little-big town.
“Textbook definitions vary from source to source, but to me, San Antonio means so much more,” Nuesca says. “San Antonio to me is the definition of multicultural! From the large active-duty and veteran military population, as well as all the foreign national military in training here and the large Latin-American population here, San Antonio is a multi-cultural mecca of infusion and fusion of different parts of the world!”
San Antonio is also defined by its inhabitants’ deep respect and fondness for their history. “Even the newer inhabitants have a modest understanding of San Antonio's historical significance,” Nuesca says. “With the Missions, the Alamo, all the historical churches and cathedrals, San Antonio is rich with history and its peoples’ respect for that history.”
And, we love to party. “San Antonio natives will find any excuse to throw a party. Fiesta and the Battle of Flowers parades are literally two-week-long parties where the whole city is in celebration!”
“Besides Fiesta, there's a myriad of other events throughout the calendar year, from Cinco de Mayo celebrations to La Gloria to Luminaria, but I've never met any San Antonian who needed an excuse to party.”