Ah, San Antonio, a city that often seems frozen in time. Like during Best of San Antonio. Elsewhere the year is 2005, but in SA, pastoral scenes of bluebonnets still win the hearts of many a fair collector and new book titles be damned. In a year in which local publisher WINGS celebrated its 10th anniversary and newly reborn Trinity University Press released its first slate of titles, we clutched 2003's Caramelo to our breast when we weren't reading self-published self-help titles.
Artpace, Linda Pace's innovative artist residency program, also turned 10 this year, as Pace herself celebrates 60. But our voters eschewed contemporary art, voting for talented practitioners of impressionism and other genteel styles. The Blue Star galleries might take a cue from some of our get-out-the-vote savvy winners (yes, we mean you, Comedia A Go-Go) and hand out forms to those SRO crowds at First Friday.
In addition to some snappy, and occasionally snarky, prose to garland our readers' choices, the Current's arts staff presents a handful of profiles of individuals from whom, based on recent performance, we expect great things in the near future. As we do of you, dear reader, who is commanded to pick up a pen in 2006 and VOTE!
"Daylight / See the dew on the sunflower / And a rose that is fading ... "
Not our San Antonio rose, though, thanks in large part to the efforts of former mayor and current County Judge Nelson Wolff (no relation to Elaine Wolff). As mayor in the early '90s, Wolff advocated for the creation of the Alameda, the organization that has since partnered with the Kennedy Center and the Smithsonian and is responsible for renovating the historic Alameda Theatre and the Casa de México International Building, as well as building and operating the Museo Americano. More recently, he proposed the creation of the fledgling Bexar County Arts and Cultural Fund (aka theFund), which will operate a United Way-style employee contribution funding program for local arts organizations. Wolff has also been a supporter of the sometimes beleaguered San Antonio Lyric Opera, and has championed its move to the Municipal Auditorium. His idea of a junket? Visit a nationally renowned performing arts high school - a model for a performing arts campus Wolff would like to see SAISD establish downtown ... rumors say that it might be connected to the Alameda. In his free time, Wolff dreams up ways to connect San Antonio's struggling downtown cultural district with its thriving Southtown neighbor.
So often too true of downtown San Antonio, even on a weekend evening. But if the folks behind the new RADIUS collaboration have their way, the silent urban desert around Municipal Auditorium will leap to life. RADIUS is an interesting concept in non-profit organization that offers office and performance space for small non-profits, historic preservation, and commercial offices on Auditorium Circle. The plan is to provide a centralized, cooperative home base for rehearsals and monthly performances by the tenants, generating a locus for arts activity and collaboration. Based on a co-op model but with a for-profit mentality, RADIUS is the brainchild of Paul Carter, whose historic family home sits just behind the old Studebaker showroom that now houses RADIUS. RADIUS provides low-cost, beautiful office space for several performing arts organizations, including the Alamo City Men's Chorale, the Children's Chorus of San Antonio, Dance Umbrella, and the Bexar County Arts & Cultural Fund. Commercial anchor tenants Creative Civilization, one of SA's premier PR firms, and RADIUS Café, scheduled to open next month, add an extra dimension of activity and stability to the non-profit arm of RADIUS.
Developer James Lifshutz, son of the late great Bernard, regularly dreams up new life for worn-out pieces of property. With a hand in no less than four downtown riverfront properties, stretching from the San Antonio Museum of Art to the Blue Star Silos `see "No Dick's need apply," March 17-23, 2005`, we hope Lifshutz will continue to be a force for revitalization and business-arts collaboration in the city's central districts.
Business and community synergy comes naturally to recent transplant Angela Martinez. She's been here only four years, but already this Robert Frost-quoting, bird-loving, hard-bowlin' movie fanatic has made an indelible mark on San Antonio's Southtown community. In that time she's co-founded independent movie rental store Planet of the Tapes, helped revive Hermann and Son's bowling alley, launched an outdoor film series at the slab, built the saevents.org community calendar website, and contributed much time and love to the Southtown neighborhood organization board.
What drives this focus? "In part, it's that we have a child and we really want to build a nurturing environment for him to grow up in," says Martinez. "But it's also San Antonio; this place really let's you make a difference."
"The streetlamp dies, another night is over / Another day is dawning ... "
And Jump-Start's Steve Bailey will be there to greet it. Bailey is no longer in transition. "We've actually quit using the word," he says, referring to Jump-Start Performance Co., the artist-run, community-based, progressive theater organization he helped found in 1985. "We're just who we are, and that involves constant change."
As Jump-Start enters its 20th year of continuous artistic and financial growth and increasing national recognition, and Bailey changes job titles for a third time (from artistic director to executive director to educational director), the ability to embrace change will serve them both well.
Commercial success, though, was never on the wish list. What was? "Working in a theater, with people I like, collaborating on shows and not feeling like I'm compromising," he says. "And that's happened."
"If you touch me / You'll understand what happiness is / Look / A new day has begun ... "
The Current salutes all of the movers, shakers, and anonymous worker bees - too numerous to mention here - who touch the Alamo City and leave it richer than they found it. Thanks to their efforts, a cultural renaissance has begun. •