Bexar County approved $900,000 Tuesday to fund a permanent public art installation along San Pedro Creek and the creation of the creek’s public art program, which will facilitate various arts programming along the creek after its grand opening in May 2018.
All of the art along the creek will aim to enhance the citizen and visitor experience and commemorate the 300-year-old city.
“Public art will remain as a legacy, so beyond the tricentennial year there will be something that we leave behind that residents and visitors will continue to enjoy for a number of years,” Edward Benavides, Tricentennial Commission CEO, told County Commissioners.
County Commissioners had originally approved $900,000 in November 2015 for a single permanent Tricentennial public art installation, but County staff and public art consultants Renee Piechocki, Jennifer McGregor and Ricardo Barreto – who are crafting the creek’s public art program – recommended stretching its impact by splitting the money into three parts: $750,000 for the large, permanent art commission in the Tree of Life Plaza; $100,000 for two smaller installations and a rotating platform; and $50,000 to fund temporary art projects commissioned in the first three years following the creek’s grand opening.
Now that they’ve secured the funding, County staff hopes to “fast track” the process to ensure that the large installation is finished in time for the Tricentennial. They will begin to solicit artist applications on Friday, July 8, after they’ve coordinated with project stakeholders, which include the San Antonio River Authority, the Tricentennial Arts & Culture Committee, and the City’s Arts Commission, among others, to determine project logistics, specifications, and details required for artist submissions.
Site visits with interested artists will be hosted on Monday, July 18 and artist applications are due by Friday, Aug. 12. The San Pedro Creek Art Advisory Committee, which is comprised of a mix of community members appointed by the County, will review the submissions and present a shortlist of finalists to County Commissioners on Tuesday, Aug. 23. The public will have the opportunity to vote on the finalists at the anticipated Sept. 8 San Pedro Creek groundbreaking event, and during the inaugural city-wide World Heritage Festival Sept. 9-10, before the committee selects the winner during the week of Sept. 12.
Ultimately, Bexar County Commissioners will approve the winner Tuesday, Sept. 20, the same day the public art program will officially launch.
“I think it’s really important that the County is setting the pace … so that others in the public and private sector can begin to make these investments early so that there’s enough time for the artists to be able to do the work and have it ready for the community in 2018,” said Jerry Geyer, San Pedro Creek Oversight Committee co-chair.
The County is working with the River Authority and a number of local artists and arts organizations to determine the vision of the art program.
Fidel “Two Bears” Castillo, who said he is a “spiritual leader” for the Indigenous Tribal Nations of Texas, asked for more representation of indigenous groups in the creek’s art planning processes.
“We’re trying to be included and record who we are so our children will know,” Castillo said. “What’s been done (with the projects) I’m not objecting to, but I’m objecting to not being included. …We have great artists, indigenous artists throughout the U.S. that would love to come to San Antonio and share our work for our children to know that we were here.”
Bexar County Heritage & Parks Department Director Betty Bueché said that the County and other project stakeholders are working with the National Park Service and the City’s World Heritage Director Colleen Swain to collect oral histories of San Antonio residents like Castillo who have deep ties to the city.
“I do agree with (Castillo) that we do need to be inclusive about the Native American history and we will be working on that,” Bueché said.
Such collaboration as essential to maintaining accuracy in the artistic representations along the creek, said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.
“It’s important as we develop the history of Bexar County representing the San Pedro Creek that the Native Americans certainly be appropriately recognized and have a voice,” he said.
Top image: From left: Bexar County Commissioner Paul Elizondo (Pct. 2), Judge Nelson Wolff, and Commissioner Kevin Wolff (Pct. 3) look over the proposed schedule for the San Pedro Creek art program implementation. Photo by Camille Garcia.