Rendering courtesy of Robert Tatum and the Historic and Design Review Commission.
Rendering courtesy of Robert Tatum and the Historic and Design Review Commission.
postcardfromSA Gayle Spencer
Building and wall, as it appears today. Photo courtesy of the Historic and Design Review Commission.
Building and wall, as it appears today. Photo courtesy of the Historic and Design Review Commission.

On the left side of the photo on the right is a wall. The wall, prepped for painting, is not architecturally stunning.

In fact, one could say it is architecturally challenged.

Perhaps that is why the artist wanted to make a monkey out of it.

But this building is located in the King William Historic District, and, according to the San Antonio Express-News, some of its residents evidently felt Robert Tatum’s Chi Chi Monkey made a mockery of the neighborhood.

Rendering courtesy of Robert Tatum and the Historic and Design Review Commission.
Rendering courtesy of Robert Tatum and the Historic and Design Review Commission.

So the artist came up with a rendering for a tame bird sporting a Tyrolean hat perched outside a gingerbready bird house, all nods to the characteristics of the neighborhood.

Some of the residents were happy.

Rendering courtesy of Robert Tatum and the Historic and Design Review Commission.
Rendering courtesy of Robert Tatum and the Historic and Design Review Commission.

But, upon further reflection, the artist was not.

He must have felt as though he had his wings clipped. This tame bird is not representative of his art, and this bird house is on the outside wall of his office. So he transformed the bird into something more reflective of his style, more of a wild-eyed cuckoo bird too big-headed to fit into his house.

Rendering courtesy of Robert Tatum and the Historic and Design Review Commission.
Rendering courtesy of Robert Tatum and the Historic and Design Review Commission.

This bird looks much more like Tatum’s style, but some of the neighbors balked at the new one.

The frustrated artist told reporter Scott Huddleston it will be his prized bird or no bird at all.

The poor members of the Historic Design and Review Commission are left in the middle, stuck walking the tightrope between artistic integrity and the strict enforcement of guidelines of the historic district.

I’m rooting for the cuckoo.

Sometimes we take ourselves so seriously, we kill the spirit of things. “We” includes me. Sometimes.

I draw a rigid line in the sand when it comes to protecting sensitive areas, such as the Alamo Plaza Historic District. I’ve even gone so far as to label myself Alamobsessive about it.

But South Alamo in Southtown is not across from the Alamo. And this building is not nestled among stately residences. It’s in more of the entertainment part of the neighborhood. People walking by the back side of this building are most likely on their way to art galleries or restaurants.

And this wall is not exactly in pedestrians’ faces. It is set way back from the sidewalk and street.

The view of the building from the Friendly Spot. Photo by Gayle Spencer.
The view of the building from the Friendly Spot. Photo by Gayle Spencer.

But what about its across-the-street neighbor? Well, that’s got to be about the most laid-back, relaxed place around – The Friendly Spot. The cartoonish cuckoo bird will fit right in and should delight the kids scampering over the Spot’s playscape while their parents gather with friends. The photo below shows the current wall when viewed from the entrance of The Friendly Spot.

You probably are thinking I posted the wrong photo. But no. That’s the proposed canvas, way back behind the red SUV, tucked unobtrusively between two buildings. If the bird’s features are not exaggerated, they won’t show up at all.

The tame version of the mural is like the Mission Drive-In, where the spirit of the original art was put in a straitjacket.

Art should reflect its creator. In this location, there seems no need to over-process it in the name of King William’s integrity.

Let that cuckoo bird fly free.

This article was re-published with permission from www.postcardsfromsanantonio.com where local freelance writer Gayle Brennan Spencer muses about many things; local art, nature, history, and whatever else comes to her mind.

Read “Processing Art through Public Filters, Part One” (about the Mission Drive-In) here.

Related Stories on the Rivard Report:

Contemporary Art Month: A Love Affair with the Misunderstood

The Arts United: A Platform for Expression

Where I Live: Southtown

“Supermoon Luminaria” at HemisFair Park: Saturday night with a few hundred thousand friends

South of Southtown: Life on the Other Side of the Tracks

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Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org