Twenty years ago, SAY Sí Executive Director Jon Hinojosa was part of a fledgling effort to establish an arts advocacy group called the Cultural Alliance of San Antonio (CASA). That effort fizzled, but a new group hopes to avoid that fate.

According to Hinojosa, the “U” in the name of Culture and Arts United for San Antonio (CAUSA), comprised of two dozen local arts organizations, might make the essential difference. With the local arts sector facing an estimated $24 million in lost funding due to the pandemic shutdown, “if we unified to remind folks of the importance of [the arts], we’d have better traction,” he said.

With the holiday season fast approaching, the first CAUSA initiative is an arts gifts and events guide sent to patrons via email and promoted via Facebook, featuring the offerings of participating groups in an effort to raise funds and remind people of the importance of the arts in their lives, Hinojosa said.

For example, anyone seeking a Nutcracker experience can purchase a ticket to the Alamo City Dance Company’s filmed version of the traditional holiday ballet, with funds supporting this and future projects by the group, according to its website. The dance company also hopes to encourage new memberships and renewals, which Hinojosa said is a key element of CAUSA’s advocacy.

In describing the group’s immediate mission, Hinojosa appealed directly to San Antonio arts patrons.

“Let’s look at individual organizations that you support: Renew your membership. All of our year ends are coming up,” he said, an important time for reckoning annual budgets. “The goal and the focus is … to support these organizations that you have in the past and that are going through difficult times.”

Other CAUSA groups hope to raise funds by promoting memberships, events, and holiday-themed events.

Blue Star Contemporary suggests giving gift memberships to fans of contemporary art, with a special membership level that include free admission and membership benefits at more than 70 modern and contemporary venues throughout the U.S., including local venues such as the McNay Art Museum and Artpace San Antonio. Blue Star also offers artwork by local artists for sale on its website.

Stuart Allen, For Chuck, 2010 is among the work available for sale at Blue Star Contemporary. Credit: Courtesy / Stuart Allen

Artpace is offering a virtual beginner-level clay workshop for making holiday ornaments at home. The deadline for signing up is Nov. 30, with the first claymaking session held Dec. 4.

The San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) and Witte Museum encourage visits to their gift shops, with a special holiday market featuring local vendors Dec. 12-13. The Witte also encourages membership purchases by offering discounts through the market.

Several groups are holding holiday-themed fundraisers. SAMA’s virtual “Seasons of Art” event takes place Dec. 4, and The Magik Theatre is holding its aptly-named “Home for the Holidays” silent auction, with bidding on locally themed gift packages running Nov. 29-Dec. 15.

In addition to a virtual presentation of The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson, the San Antonio Metropolitan Ballet offers a Nutcracker-themed online holiday market, with orders due by Dec. 4.

SAY Sí’s “virtual mercado” featuring local vendors and a gallery of Día de los Muertos student artwork is open through Nov. 28, and the teaching organization is seeking year-end donations to help its move into new Westside headquarters in 2021.

The Southwest School of Art (SSA), noted for its community artmaking classes, offers holiday-themed weekend workshops for kids and gift certificates for adult classes. Those seeking a rare gift might be interested in the Pandemic Print Portfolio Project, a folio of handmade prints by local artists including Margaret Craig, Juan de Dios Mora, Leigh Anne Lester, Chris Sauter, Kathy Sosa, and Gary Sweeney.

SSA President Paula Owen was part of the original CASA group 20 years ago, and helped Hinojosa initiate the CAUSA project along with Ruby City Director Elyse Gonzales. The three met regularly with other arts leaders via videoconference to discuss how they were each dealing with pandemic-related issues such as safety protocols, reopening procedures, funding cuts, and loss of income from events.

While 24 member groups are most active currently, Hinojosa said he purposefully includes a mix of 90 publicly funded and private arts groups in CAUSA communications to foster wider collaboration.

The holiday gift guide and a Facebook page are only the beginning of CAUSA’s efforts to advocate for the artists and arts organizations of San Antonio, Hinojosa said.

“We want to remind folks that arts and culture is really grounded in the foundation of the city, and what makes it so important and unique,” he said. “And we have such a wide, diverse group of cultural and arts organizations that all have that kind of impact.”

SAY Sí Executive and Artistic Director Jon Hinojosa poses for a photo in his office, which has a tendency to look more like and art studio. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
SAY Sí Executive Director Jon Hinojosa. Credit: Iris Dimmick / San Antonio Report

Hinojosa cited initial efforts by arts leaders to successfully lobby City and County government to direct emergency relief funds towards the arts sector as providing a template for future advocacy, even beyond the pandemic.

“It’s about seeing progress, and movement, and a commitment from individuals that can make a lasting change,” he said.

Nicholas Frank

Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with an indie rock...