Sadly, there are plenty of San Antonio natives who can't point out a single piece of public art other than Mexican sculptor Sebastián's La Antorcha de la Amistad (Friendship Torch), that bright-red punctuation mark in the roundabout at Commerce and South Alamo. Not to knock the 65-foot, 45-ton enameled iron monument — which has appeared in countless skyline photos since the Mexican government gifted it to San Antonio in 2002 — but the Alamo City boasts a bounty of public art, thanks in no small part to the city-funded Public Art San Antonio program. Guided by a premise that "public art projects should create places and spaces to reveal influential stories about San Antonio's history, cultures, characteristics and uniqueness," PASA and its ever-evolving map of installations (which run the gamut from the wry irony of Gary Sweeney's postcard-perfect Nostalgia Texas to the sublime conceptualism of Anne Wallace's prairie-summoning Golden Age) inspire suburban treasure hunts and downtown bike rides alike. In keeping with Luminaria's mission to wrap San Antonio's varied cultures and disciplines in a colorful blanket of light, three of the Alamo City's brightest examples of public art look better at night.
Bill FitzGibbons, Light Channels, 2007
A morphing, blinking, circus-striped smorgasbord beneath the I-37 underpass at Commerce and Houston streets, Light Channels is a collaboration between visual artist Bill FitzGibbons, the City of San Antonio, the Texas Department of Transportation and others. Beyond offering passing cars a technicolor encounter with computer-controlled LEDs, Light Channels invites foot traffic to "cross under the highway, through the barrier" between downtown and the near East Side.
Donald Lipski, F.I.S.H., 2009
If the Museum Reach were to elect a mascot, the lepomis megalotis would be a shoo-in. Better known as longear sunfish and found in rivers and streams throughout the Lone Star State, the orange and turquoise beasties take center stage in New York-based artist Donald Lipski's whimsical F.I.S.H., a glowing installation that dangles beneath I-35 near the intersection of Camden Street and Newell Avenue. While the 25 LED-equipped fiberglass sunfish are spitting distance from the San Antonio Museum of Art, Lipski's installation is also easily reached from the Pearl — just head south on the River Walk and look for a school of fish out of water.
Blessing Hancock and Joe O'Connell, Ballroom Luminoso, 2013
Not unlike Light Channels, Blessing Hancock and Joe O'Connell's Ballroom Luminoso activates a freeway underpass (below I-35 near Theo and Malone avenues) as a color-saturated space designed to "connect the community." Oddly hypnotic despite the din of overhead traffic, the 2013 project paints a surreal, slowly changing scene with LED lights beamed from lotería-inspired chandeliers crafted from upcycled bicycle parts and powder-coated steel. Likened to a "community shadow theater," Ballroom Luminoso took home the Transformative Design Award at SXSW Eco's inaugural Place by Design Awards in 2013.