The Compass Rose by Zoe Palacios. Photo by Page Graham.
The Compass Rose by Zoe Palacios. Photo by Page Graham.

A group of more than 20 supporters joined Executive Director of Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum Mary Heathcott to dedicate the newest art installation along the River Walk, The Compass Rose. It’s located on the eastern side of the River Walk across from Main Plaza and the San Fernando Cathedral in front of the Drury Plaza Hotel. The artwork serves as the starting point in a system of mile markers extending south along the Mission Reach portion of the river.

Dignitaries from across the spectrum of public and private domain included Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, Senior Executive Vice President of Frost Bank Tom Frost III, Vice President of Valero Energy Foundation Sylvia Rodriguez, and Artist-in-Residence and MOSAIC mentor at Blue Star Contemporary Alex Rubio.

Zoe Palacios and her mother, Lupe Palacios. Photo by Page Graham.
Zoe Palacios and her mother, Lupe Palacios. Photo by Page Graham.

Zoe Palacios was the guest of honor today, but she modestly stayed in the background of the proceedings. She is the young artist from Blue Star’s MOSAIC program responsible for the design of Compass Rose, serving as lead artist for the installation of this latest art in public spaces project.

Palacios is a student at Brackenridge High School, and was joined by her very proud mom, Lupe Palacios, who simply said, “She has accomplished so much.”

Soft-spoken, but confident, Zoe adds, “It has been a very enriching experience to have so much opportunity at a young age.”

MOSAIC mentor Alex Rubio points out that Zoe is one of his “veterans” in the program, working with the group since 2011. At the tender age of 17, she has served as lead artist on several installations now. Rubio elaborated further on the goals of the program, explaining its role at Blue Star and in the community.

“MOSAIC focuses on community art as well as studio art skills. Students gain the experience of presenting concepts and ideas and in the process are competitively selected to complete the final conceptual design,” he said.

Alex Rubio, Sylvia Rodriguez, Tom Frost III and Nelson Wolff. Photo by Page Graham.
Alex Rubio, Sylvia Rodriguez, Tom Frost III and Nelson Wolff during the unveiling of the Compass Rose art installation/mile marker on the River Walk. Photo by Page Graham.

This process includes presenting to the public entities involved, in this case, the San Antonio River Authority and Public Art San Antonio, a division of the City’s Department for Culture and Creative Development. Frost Bank and Valero Energy Corporation also contributed funding to the project.

MOSAIC is near and dear to the heart of Frost, who is also an artist and musician. The initial incarnation of this program, Askew, was one that Frost was deeply involved with from it’s inception in 2002. The nonprofit was created to give young people the skills required to fabricate artistic mosaic tile projects as well as the tools to sell this work.

In 2008, while Frost was the chairman of the board of directors for Blue Star Contemporary, he saw an opportunity to give Askew a foundation of permanence. Askew was brought under the umbrella of Blue Star, and MOSAIC was born. Frost lauded the accomplishments of the program and of Alex Rubio.

“Alex is magic. The way he merges his painting background with the art of mosaic tile takes the art form to a new level. The way he attracts young people to the program. We are very proud,” he said. “It took a lot of teamwork to get this done and this type of work brings a balance to Blue Star. It is a way of earning our funding and contributing to the community.”

Frost thanked Mary Heathcott for “bringing us up to the next step.”

Sylvia Rodriguez spoke for Valero offering words of praise for the teamwork required to complete community projects like these.

“We want to be a good neighbor. Valero is very proud of the efforts of the City and County, and we are very proud to be a part of presenting these public works,” she said. Valero encourages community participation, not only volunteerism but also serving on boards of nonprofit and public institutions. Valero executive Pierre Emond is on the Blue Star Contemporary board of directors.

In his words, Judge Wolff invoked history. The history of Blue Star dating to it’s founding by Hap Veltmann in 1984, the 18th century origins of Main Plaza and the San Fernando Cathedral, the efforts to save and improve the river in the 1920s. And in a direct reference to the design of the Compass Rose, Wolff also shared with us the fact that 13 rose windows have been uncovered during the process of the renovations at the historic Courthouse and are being restored.

Nelson Wolff speaks to the gathering. Photo by Page Graham.
Nelson Wolff speaks to the crowd gathered on the River Walk to unveil the Compass Rose art installation (right). Photo by Page Graham.

See, for the judge, this is all a continuum – the story of San Antonio de Bexar. The San Antonio River Improvements Project not only restores the flora and fauna of our historic river creating relevance for a new generation, it is already generating significant economic impact along its path. Wolff is very proud of this ongoing effort and invited everyone to join him on his bike ride on Friday mornings at 8 a.m. He is looking forward to showing off the Mission Reach of the project and anyone interested in pedaling along for all or part of the ride should gather at the Courthouse at the corner of Main and Nueva Streets.

“Bring your bikes, and if you don’t have one you can rent one from B-cycle,” he said.

He finished his comments simply. “Thanks for the great work, and to all our partners.”

This is the best part of even the simplest of public works projects. It is an opportunity to lift up and improve our community. It is an opportunity to come together in cooperation. It is an opportunity for even a young girl to make her mark.

 *Featured/top image: The Compass Rose by Zoe Palacios. Photo by Page Graham.

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Tami Kegley

Tami Kegley has lived the life of an artist. Through multiple careers — dancer, percussionist, performance artist, sculptor, goldsmith, gallerist — she has pursued her need to create. The Great Recession...