Tucked behind the hustle and bustle of Central Market on Broadway is one of San Antonio’s best-kept secrets: Cathedral Park at the Bishop Jones Center is a 19-acre urban oasis full of meandering trails, flowing fountains, and places for recreation.

The property was recently the subject of the book Hallowed Ground by Marjorie George, who described its “wandering paths, overlooks [of] trees hundreds of years old, and native plants and grasses. The topography ranges from grassy meadows to meandering stone paths through dense trees and bushes.”

In addition to being the administrative home of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas, the center also houses Cathedral House Gallery, which hosts numerous art exhibitions. Art and Contemplation, a new show opening Sunday, Sept. 24, is a perfect match to the meditative space that surrounds the gallery.

“Evidence shows that these grounds have been inhabited for 12,000 years. Here American Indians fished in the creeks, hunted for game, gathered rice from the wetlands, and used mountain laurel seeds for their religious ceremonies. Here they reconnected with life-giving waters and with the spirits who guided them,” George writes.

Today, one can take a self-guided podcast tour of the grounds to enjoy highlights such as the pergola of hope, the Chapel House, a gorgeous live oak, and a sunset and sunrise overlook.

A path in Cathedral Park is covered in shade behind Cathedral House.
A path in Cathedral Park is covered in shade behind Cathedral House. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

“Of prime importance,” George concludes, “is how the Bishop Jones Center property can continue to be a place of rest and refreshment for its visitors.”

Deborah Hanus, a local teacher and spiritual director, has written a booklet to accompany the new show, titled The Right Eyes: Art and Contemplation,” in which she explains what the synergy of art and contemplation can do for the viewer. Hanus begins by quoting German-language poet Rainer Maria Rilke: “A long time, nothing, and then suddenly one has the right eyes.”

This refers to Rilke’s many visits to view French artist Paul Cézanne’s paintings and “…it was only after long attentive looking that Rilke was able to receive the spirit and message Cézanne wished to convey,” Hanus explained. “So it is with us. We, too, must learn to look until we have the right eyes.”

While Hanus does not offer any “hard and fast rules about looking at art,” she offers exercises to form a “contemplative eye,” such as gazing, flowing, healing, and sending messages. “Art and contemplation are two gifts of love … contemplation is about the capacity to see,” Hanus said.

Visitors to the Cathedral House Gallery can obtain Hanus’ booklet as they meld the the contemplation and viewing of art in the show.

Station 1  E. Gordon West

Patsy Sasek’s Dance of the Cosmos is a watercolor painting that dances on the surface. Strong diagonals are juxtaposed with swirling galaxies while deep colors draw the eye in to explore the depth of the cosmos.

Evening Meditation by Terry Gay Puckett plays with the human sense of space amit a sea of dusky blues. A tree blows in and out of a square frame, playing tricks on spacial perceptions.

Gordon West’s Station 1 presents a cubistic look at the first station of the cross. Viewers should take longing gazes at this painting to truly grasp the vision the artist aimed to convey.

Other artists exhibiting at Art and Contemplation include Tina Karagulian and Edwin Sasek. The show at 111 Torcido Dr. opens with a reception Sunday from 3-5 p.m. Twenty percent of the sales proceeds from the exhibition will benefit the Episcopal Church’s hurricane relief efforts in Rockport.

Peter Szarmach is a part-time marketer and photographer. His site, www.composingbeauty.com offers some of the beauty around us we sometimes miss or take for granted. He's also a board member at large with...