You know that quick sense of elation, if not euphoria, you get from that spontaneous action of slapping hands with another person? That rush you get from the good, old-fashioned high five is the kind of excitement that owner and artist Joseph Silvas wants everyone to experience when it comes to the San Antonio art scene. Since opening the High Five Shop on the St. Mary’s Strip in July of this year, Silvas has set out to create a place where local artists can not only showcase and sell their work but also grow their followings.
“We sell mostly local art; and when I say art, I mean prints, stickers, patches, T-shirts, some ceramics, greeting cards and other things like that,” Silvas said. “These are all original things [made by] artists who are mostly local. There are a couple from Austin and I’m slowly starting to reach out to some artists across the country.”
From wall to wall and ceiling to floor, the quaint shop is filled to the brim with original offerings from more than 50 artists. Pop-culture and SA-centric imagery catches your eye at every turn, whether it’s the sweet looking Nacho Libre piñata, enamel pins inspired by panadería classics (piggy little marranito cookies included), or Spurs-themed gear crafted by Silvas himself. In a nutshell, it’s all about street-smart art designed expressly for puro San Anto.
“I want to make my shop a hub for local artists who can’t make it out to events like First Friday or Second Saturday,” Silvas said. “The Spurs picked up a few of my designs and started to sell them, like my Spurs Coyote paleta stuff. That helped me grow my reputation, at least on social media. So I started using those tools, especially Instagram (@highfiveshopsa), to promote my stuff and the other artists who have things to sell here.”
The idea to open a shop like High Five was never part of Silvas’ original plan. In the beginning, he had the notion of buying a trailer, loading it up with art and traveling the country — from festival to festival, event to event — doing pop-up sales. When the previous owners of the space (formerly the men’s boutique Pops' Shop) opted to give up their business, they contacted Silvas
(a good friend) and asked him if he’d be interested in taking it over.
“My friends had been selling my stickers, T-shirts and prints in their shop for years. So when they decided to close, they offered me the space to do whatever I wanted with it,” he said. “With the space, I probably could have done a lot of different things ... but I knew I wanted to sell other people’s work. Most of them were my friends starting off, but I knew other artists around town that I wanted to get exposure for.”
As the sole owner, Silvas is confident in his ability to gather, curate and sell work he feels represents some of the best local artists in their genre. When it comes to selecting the “merchandise,” he has a few business philosophies. Silvas is not interested in selling original (read: one-of-a-kind) paintings, prints or sculptures; he doesn’t want anything to be too high-priced; and, above all, he wants the highest quality.
“Most San Antonians don’t want to spend too much on art. But if they want to, they have the ability to come in here and buy a $50 print from Cruz Ortiz or just a $2 sticker from some other artist,” Silvas said. “There’s a good range in my shop. It doesn’t matter to me if the artist has a big fan base or not. Quality is what is important.”
With his commendable efforts fully underway, Silvas is devoted to seeing High Five Shop succeed. Right now, the “grassroots” approach feels right. Eventually, he plans to establish an online store. But, for now at least, it’s High Five Shop or bust.
“I like the idea of having all this great stuff under one roof,” he said. “It would be really hard to find some of these artists’ work otherwise. I’m sure some are selling their stuff online ... but, if you come to High Five Shop, you can find it all here. We make it fun inside. I think it’s really cool to see people’s reactions to the things we’ve got. Ultimately, though, my goal would be to go back and revisit the trailer and pop-up idea. This time though, I would be able to share all of San Antonio with the world.”
High Five Shop 806 E. Mistletoe Ave.,
(210) 380-1637, facebook.com/highfiveshopsa