The Jane and Arthur Stieren Center at the McNay. Image courtesy of the McNay.

This weekend, love is in the air, and it is more than just Valentine’s Day. It’s the celebration of 60 years of love between San Antonio and the McNay Art Museum.

“We’re celebrating our community and the relationship to the museum,” said Daniella Oliver-Portillo, public relations director at the McNay.

The theme for this love-fest is derived less from the holiday, and more from the current exhibition in the Jane and Arthur Stieren Center. “Robert Indiana: Beyond LOVE” opened Feb. 5, and showcases the visually and intellectually stimulating work of the artist responsible for the ubiquitous LOVE sculptures gracing crowded sidewalks and parks from Scottsdale, Arizona to New York City and around the world. The exhibition reveals the witty, bold mind behind the pop art icon with many of his lesser known, but possibly more interesting work.

Robert Indiana, Decade Auto Portrait. Image courtesy of the McNay Art Museum.
Robert Indiana, Decade Auto Portrait. Image courtesy of the McNay Art Museum.

But don’t worry, there’s a big light-up LOVE, for those who need a hook.

The festivities kick off on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. with “Present at the Birth: Marion McNay’s Original Bequest,” a conversation with curators René Paul Barilleaux, Jody Blake, and Lyle Williams and McNay Director William J. Chiego. Panelists will discuss their favorite artifacts from the original collection of Marion Koogler McNay, and end with a toast in her honor.

For those familiar with the original collection, it should be fun to see how the experts’ lists compare to your own. My favorite painting in the original collection is Marc Chagall’s “Dream World.” It captivated me at age 7, and still has me in its grip.

On Friday from 6:30-8:30 p.m. visitors can celebrate Valentine’s Day with a performance entitled, “LOVE Sweet Love.” The Allegro Stage company will provide music from Robert Indiana and Don Draper’s 1960s while guests dance, sip champagne and nibble hors d’oeuvers. How very Mad Men.

For tickets to “LOVE Sweet Love” call 210-805-1768 or email $10 for members, $15 for non-members.

Saturday returns to the heart of the museum with a special free tour departing every hour on the hour between noon and 5pm. “With Love, Marion,” focuses again on the original Marion Koogler McNay collection. So those who didn’t have a favorite piece to compare to the curators’ favorites on Thursday night, this is your chance!

On Thursday-Saturday admission the museum is free, and admission to the Robert Indiana exhibit is $5.

Fun at the McNay, courtesy of the McNay Art Museum
Fun at the McNay, courtesy of the McNay Art Museum

Sunday is the grand finale. Inside visitors can take advantage of free admission to not only the McNay permanent collection, but also to “Robert Indiana: Beyond LOVE.” Meanwhile, outside, a 5K run and Free Family Day will take over the property. The 5K will take place entirely on the grounds, and there will be a kid’s race as well. To put an art-lovers twist on the event, runners will get to screen print their own race shirts, and every child-runner gets a medal to decorate by hand. (More entry information can be found here).

The performances outside during the party will reflect the broad nature of the collection inside. The San Antonio electropop band Hyperbubble will be performing along with San Antonio Metropolitan Ballet.

Cupcake stations, food trucks, a champagne toast (on the house), and tile painting round out the event which should delight the entire family.Or anyone who thinks the idea of Sunday lunch at a food truck on the grounds of  an art museum sounds pretty perfect.

“We’re really celebrating!” said Oliver-Portillo.

As they should be. Since 1954 the museum has preserved the estate of Marion Koogler McNay including 700 works of art by renown and lesser-known artists. Her bequest of the art, the house, the grounds and an endowment created the first modern art museum in Texas.

Many have loved the McNay through the decades. Members and benefactors have grown the private collection in a stately home into an institution.

The museum is now home to 20,000 works of art, and seven additions have been made to the original Atlee B. Ayers design. Even many San Antonians who do not particularly love the visual arts have enjoyed the 23-acre campus where on any given day picnics and portraits are being staged across the lawn.

Of all the McNay’s additions none has been more dramatic or transformative than the $33.1 million Jane & Arthur Stieren Center for Exhibitions, a modernist glass pavilion designed by celebrated French architect Jean Paul-Viguier and opened to the public in 2008. The Stieren Center nearly doubled the McNay’s size. It’s dramatic setting amid the museum’s parklike surroundings and sculpture garden is, in itself, reason for a visit.

The McNay Art Museum. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
The McNay Art Museum grounds. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Another is the McNay’s world-class print collection. Each year, the museum hosts a popular weekend print fair attended by some of the nation’s leading dealers. For the beginning collector as well as those with collection built over many years, the print fair is a rare opportunity to see thousands of works for sale under one roof.

This painting, "Dream Village," hanging in the McNay sparked a life long love affair with artist Marc Chagall. I chased him all over the world. Photo courtesy of The McNay. [1929, Oil on canvas, Accession No. 1950.24]
This painting, “Dream Village,” hanging in the McNay sparked a life long love affair with artist Marc Chagall. I chased him all over the world. Photo courtesy of The McNay. [1929, Oil on canvas, Accession No. 1950.24]

Some works can be had for a few hundred dollars. It’s a great learning experience, especially with highly approachable dealers eager to share their knowledge who are happy to visit even if you are not buying. the This year’s 17th annual fair will be held March 1-2, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and from noon-5 p.m. on Sunday.

As a child, I had my own romance with the McNay. In addition to falling in love with Chagall and his works, I picnicked on the lawn with my grandmother and had my teenage portrait made on the grounds. Many locals have similar happy memories, selecting the McNay as the place for first dates, marriage proposals, and weddings. The McNay is for lovers.

*Featured/top photo of the Jane and Arthur Stieren Center courtesy of the McNay Art Museum.


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Bekah McNeel

Bekah McNeel

Bekah McNeel is a native San Antonian. You can also find her at her blog,, on Twitter @BekahMcneel, and on Instagram @wanderbekah.