Contemporary Art Month draws a crowd at the Silkworm Gallery. Photo by Page Graham.
Contemporary Art Month draws a crowd at the Silkworm Gallery during CAM 2015. Photo by Page Graham.

Going to Second Saturday on South Flores by the railroad tracks is always a journey of discovery. It becomes more special during Contemporary Art Month – everybody pulls out the stops. This year’s collection of shows was no exception.

First up was ® Space, run by Alex Rubio, who also runs the MOSAIC education program at Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum. His show featured 19-year-old Yenifer Gaviña, one of his students. Her talents have afforded her the opportunity to get a full scholarship at the Southwest School of Art. Her works are simply striking. Watch for more from this young woman.

Next up was the Gallista Gallery, which hosts a number of smaller spaces rented by tenants. The main gallery was filled with works by Celeste De Luna, whose work conveys strong social and emotional messages. Says De Luna in her artist’s statement, “Common themes in my work include migrant/border experiences of women, children, and families, the social effects of documentation status, and the spiritual struggle of conflicting identities, including survivor’s guilt.”

Gallista has been up for sale for a while now, and the property is come under contract to be sold. However, the closing date is currently indeterminate, and the facility will continue to operate unchanged for the time being. According to current owner Joe Lopez, the potential buyer wants to keep the building as a “cultural arts” space, but that’s about all we know right now. And of course, the deal isn’t done until all the papers are signed. Real estate transactions like these sometimes unravel, especially commercial properties like this one.

Gallista Gallery has been sold and will be closing soon. Photo by Page Graham.
Gallista Gallery has been sold and will be closing soon. Photo by Page Graham.

An artist once said, “Artists are like earthworms. They move into a blighted area and make everything fertile again. Then they are forced to move on.” This is an unfortunate truth. Many artists live a hand-to-mouth existence, and gallery owners certainly aren’t doing it to get rich. That is why clusters of galleries move into once-abandoned, affordable industrial zones like the South Flores area. Inevitably, the area becomes trendy, thanks to the artists and gallerists, and the rents become too high for them to stay there. And so they move on…

Next up was the Lullwood Group space, featuring works by Claude Van Lingen, Ansen Seale, Benjamin McVey, Larry Graeber, and more. Unfortunately, none of the artworks had labels on them. Sometimes, preparators simply run out of time. More often than not, getting a show ready includes a last-minute rush.

The galleries in the 1906 S. Flores building were bustling and bursting with art. Shek Vega’s Gravelmouth gallery featuring muralists Sour Grapes from Dallas, Los Otros de San Antonio, and Josh Row aka Dang from Austin.

Throughout the rest of the building were performance artists doing their thing, as well as several small galleries tucked here and there showing an overstimulating variety of artwork. In the middle of it all were the artists from Zollie Glass Studio, an always popular attraction.

The last stop is inevitably Dor?ol Distilling Company, where the bartenders are always going full speed on a night like this, making their bespoke Rakia cocktails. The featured artist there was Andy Benavides, who displayed a variety of items influenced by the steampunk aesthetic. Benavides is a well-known figure in the arts community, but it’s not often that his works are displayed.

Walking out of Dor?ol, intending to go home, I noticed light in a formerly darkened warehouse. Inside, I discovered a treasure trove of pop art by Daniel Saldaña. The works – mostly stylized images of Lone Star and Pearl bottles on found objects – were quite reasonably priced. As artist Robert Tatum snatched up a table, I found myself reaching into my pocket for some cash to buy a large piece myself.

In artists’ communities like this, it seems that while one place may be shutting down, another one pops up. That’s the way it has been and will be. Although we are uncertain what will happen to Gallista, it’s certain there will be more surprises coming from new artists as they set up shop in this vicinity.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article included information/quotes from Luis Valderas and Kim Bishop that they had been given 30 days notice to leave Gallista Gallery. After a conversation with the owner, Joe Lopez, it became clear there had been a miscommunication. No one is being asked to leave, and the plan is to retain the status quo for the time being.

Related Stories:

First Friday to Second Saturday: Remembering Silos, Discovering Lone Star

Contemporary Art Month: 30 Years Later

A Stimulating “Seven Minutes in Heaven”

Mary Heathcott Brings Positive Changes to Blue Star: Put A Red Dot On That

It’s First Friday and Art is Alive and Well at Blue Star

Page Graham

Page Graham

Page Graham has been a resident of San Antonio – on and off – for over 30 years now. He has moved into the corporate world, making a living developing training materials and Powerpoint presentations...