With about 55 percent of local residents at least partially vaccinated and older kids now eligible, the City of San Antonio is turning to art in its push to get as many more vaccinated against COVID-19 as possible. 

The City and its partners unveiled a new mural Friday on the side of the La Norteña Neighborhood Market, located at 2202 South Flores St. in downtown San Antonio, as a part of the second phase of its COVID-19 prevention awareness campaign. The mural, by local mural artist Alex Rubio, is the first of six murals that are part of the effort. 

The campaign, called “What Will It Take,” initially launched in November with a focus on wearing masks and social distancing. Phase two kicked off in April, and features work by local musicians and artists that encourages people to get vaccinated. The murals also aim to “bring life to the walls of small businesses in the heart of neighborhoods that have been most impacted by the pandemic,” the City stated in a press release.

The location in District 5 was the first in the series, and murals are planned in council districts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 7, city officials said. The campaign also includes outreach efforts and a “Paletas in the Park” program that brings vaccine information and popsicles to families in areas of the city where coronavirus cases have been most widespread.

“As you know, our conditions have been improving quite dramatically over the last few months, and as they continue to do so, as our cases and hospitalizations decline, it’s important that we all know that the fight against COVID-19 is not yet over,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said during the unveiling event. “We must continue to work together to eliminate COVID-19 from our community, and bring more normalcy back to our neighborhoods. 

The only way to do that is to get more San Antonio residents vaccinated and to continue practicing recommendations shared by the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nirenberg said.

Vaccine supply now outweighs demand, meaning vaccines are highly accessible to anyone who is eligible, he added. Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration and CDC announced that children ages 12 to 15 can receive the Pfizer vaccine. Nirenberg said his 12-year-old son, Jonah, got his first dose Thursday.

A mobile vaccine event aimed at this age group will take place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Sul Ross Middle School, located at 3630 Callaghan Rd. Residents can register by clicking here. Vaccines will be available for walk-ups, but only residents who are registered will be guaranteed a dose.

The City’s mobile vaccine clinic was nearby the site of the mural unveiling, and Assistant City Manager Colleen Bridger encouraged anyone present who hadn’t been vaccinated yet to take advantage. 

“We will continue to focus on bringing vaccinations as close to where people live as possible,” she said. “So look for more [mobile] vaccination sites throughout the summer.” 

In addition to bringing the vaccine directly into neighborhoods, city officials want to keep the vaccine message front and center with eye-catching murals. Rubio’s red, white, and black mural features Artur Valdez, a San Antonio Indepedent School District board member, who is pictured wearing a red mask with his sleeve rolled up. His arm bears a red Band-Aid.

Hidden in the red mask is the image of a cardinal, representing Valdez’s late wife, Theresa, who died in July. The couple was married for more than 45 years. Rubio told the San Antonio Report he chose Valdez as his mural subject because he is a highly respected member of the San Antonio community. 

A detail of the Alex Rubio mural featuring SAISD trustee Arthur Valdez and the cardinal representing his late wife, Theresa.
A detail of the Alex Rubio mural featuring SAISD trustee Arthur Valdez and the cardinal representing his late wife, Theresa. Credit: Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report

“I designed this mural in hopes that it will encourage San Antonio communities most affected by COVID-19 to protect each other by getting vaccinated,” he said. “Together, we can slow the spread of COVID-19 and value each other’s health and well being.”

Valdez said he hopes the mural encourages more people within the school district’s boundaries to get vaccinated so children can be back in the classroom this fall.

“[The pandemic] really affected our students at SAISD. There were some rough times,” Valdez said. “We’re hoping to have 90% to 100% of our students back in the classroom this August.”

The next mural unveiling will take place sometime next week, with a final date still to be set, according to a City press release. Artist Kaldrick Dow is creating the mural for District 2. Subsequent murals will be by Jerry Garcia in District 4, Ana Hernandez in District 3, and Kim Bishop in District 7.

For more information on upcoming city pop-up vaccine clinics, click here

Lindsey Carnett

Lindsey Carnett is the general assignment reporter for the San Antonio Report.