An ability to pivot between high technology and sensitive local histories is likely what won Brooklyn artist Adam Frank approval for his STREAM project for the San Pedro Creek Culture Park.
On Tuesday, the Bexar County Commissioner’s Court voted unanimously to approve Frank’s project for the creek at a budget of $100,000.
In April, the San Antonio River Authority (SARA) sought proposals for a new public artwork for Phase 1.2 of the County’s San Pedro Creek Improvements Project. Frank proposed an interactive light-based installation for the 250-foot-long water wall portion of the culture park, near the renovated Alameda Theater and Texas Public Radio (TPR) headquarters.
“The site itself is somewhat fraught,” Frank said before the discussion and commissioners’ vote. He referred both to the colonial history of San Antonio’s heritage missions, including the original Mission San Antonio de Valero located on the creek, and to the population divide between downtown and the West Side that the creek once represented.
“There’s a lot of history there. And I’m really straightforward. I’m trying to make something positive here for everyone.”
Frank’s project centers on a vintage-style radio microphone as a functional sculpture in front of the water wall, lighting up in a rainbow of colors as the microphone is activated. Members of the public who visit the park are encourage to use the mic – to speak, sing, play musical instruments, or otherwise make noise, all of which will activate the lighting. If no one is making noise, regular TPR broadcasting will activate the lighting.
When the light wall is activated, the colored lights will appear to “stream” along with the approximate flow of the creek. Visually, the purpose of the piece is to “merge the cultural sounds of San Antonio with the flow of the creek,” Frank said.
The artist is currently working on an installation for Presidio Park in San Diego, which he described as another “fraught site,” with a complicated connection to local indigenous history. His project there will acknowledge the first Franciscan mission in California, Mission San Diego de Alcalá, and its history which the city had generally ignored, he said.
The similarities of the two heritage mission sites appealed to Frank’s sensibility, he said, as did the location along San Pedro Creek, once considered a point of “racial separation” in San Antonio.
Such geographical divisions exist in many cities, but San Antonio recognizes its past enough to have specified this information in the Request for Qualifications package it provided to applicants, he said.
Frank hopes STREAM will provide “an optimistic vision of the future” in keeping with the general tone of his work.
“This piece is really meant to bridge different cultures and unite people in a shared positive experience,” he said. “It represents a real opportunity to transform a historical divider of people into a new place of shared community.”
As a finalist, Frank was up against formidable local competition, including experienced public artists Ansen Seale and George Schroeder, who applied as a team, and sound artist Justin Boyd.
The three-judge panel that chose the finalists consisted of Mary Heathcott, executive director of Blue Star Contemporary Arts; Steve Tillotson, a principal of the Munoz and Company architecture and design firm; and Cyle Perez, marketing and public relations manager for TPR.
Perez’s presence on the panel did not influence the inclusion of TPR in the project proposal, said Carrie Brown, SARA’s public art curator.
“That was [Adam’s] vision,” she said. SARA then reached out to TPR, Brown explained, as a potential collaborator in the project’s realization.
“This is a very prominent project right adjacent to their new facility,” she said. “And we certainly anticipate collaborating with them in the future for programming aspects of the park. And so we felt like this was a great opportunity to begin that collaboration.”
TPR expects to be in its new home in early 2020, and Frank predicted a one-year timeline for completion of STREAM.