If you think great San Antonio art, artists, galleries, and artistic communities are only to be found in Southtown, it’s high time to broaden your horizons. For starters, you’ll definitely want to get acquainted with the goings on in the area which includes Monticello Park, Jefferson, Woodlawn Lake, Keystone, Beacon Hill and Alta Vista. Collectively dubbed On and Off Fredericksburg, for their proximity to that thoroughfare, these neighborhoods, which are rich in history and charm, are home to a huge number of artists, galleries, studios and arts-minded organizations.
Back in 2004, Dr. Kellen McIntyre — art historian, former University of Texas at San Antonio professor and founding director of Bihl Haus Arts — understood this area and its cultural value exceedingly well. After founding the community arts center Bihl Haus in a historic 1920s-era home, McIntyre, who spoke to the Current last week, developed close working ties to the many artists and artisans in the area. In conversation with and observation of the members of this already-thriving artistic hub, many of whom are still living/working there, McIntyre found that there was a real need for a community space and community events that allowed artists to show and sell their work with greater visibility.
Ten years ago, the On and Off Fredericksburg Road Studio Tour was created in response to this need and McIntyre’s desire to create an art tour that would be “special, professional, well-packaged, and, most importantly, about and for the artists.” McIntyre emphasized her guiding belief that “artists deserve a fair wage for the important work that they do.” Unfortunately, she feels that artists are “rarely paid like they should be or celebrated like they should be.”
Noting the serious value of art and artists to the larger community of San Antonio, McIntyre said “when the arts community is sick or malnourished, then the whole community is sick, and when the arts community is well, the whole community is well.”
A Monticello Park resident herself, McIntyre noted that the planning of the sprawling tour —lovingly referred to as On and Off Fred — was a “synergetic and energetic” collaboration between herself and a handful of artists who lived and/or worked in the area. In the years since, new faces have helped round out a cast as eclectic as San Antonio itself, and new arts/culture organizations in the area have helped make On and Off Fred, which keeps its focus squarely on the locals, into a truly unique studio tour. As McIntyre explains it, “we have never been interested in non-local artists, from very early on we were committed to artists who live and/or work in the area.”
On and Off Fred has certainly grown in participation, attendance, and scope — the first catalog, which is always written and put together by McIntyre herself, was a mere 25 pages, while this year’s is well-nigh 100 — but McIntyre doesn’t see its growth as a linear kind of trajectory. “It’s like a living, breathing organism that shrinks and swells,” she explained.
So how do you get in on the action with On and Off Fred? First things first: get yourself one of the catalogs, which open up the tour like a map to hidden treasures and unexplored regions of delight. The catalog, which includes information on more than 60 featured artists and can be purchased through Bihl Haus Arts (2803 Fredericksburg Road), online, and select other vendors (see onandofffred.org for details), contains maps to help you navigate the area and a schedule of the many events (like poetry readings, performance art pieces, plays and live music) that will accompany the studio tour. It’s these extra events, coupled with the fact that there seems to be arty magic around every corner, that make On and Off Fred “so much more than just a studio tour.”
On and Off Fredericksburg Road Studio Tour
$10-$15 (includes catalog), 11am-6pm Sat, Feb. 18, noon-5pm Sun, Feb. 19
(210) 383-9723 onandofffred.org.