Artpace is San Antonio’s most contemporary arts institution; a combination art lab and community center where something unusual and creative is almost always going on. Founded by the late artist-philanthropist Linda Pace in 1995, Artpace provides residency fellowships for Texan, out-of-state, and international art stars, exhibits hot contemporary work, and performs community outreach and education. Check out its kid-friendly fests such as October’s annual Chalk It Up (wherein artists and regular folk make original chalk drawings on downtown sidewalks), outstanding film series and lectures, and social events such as rooftop concerts and potluck dinners. 445 N Main, (210) 212-4900, artpace.org
blue star contemporary art center
Two decades old and counting, Blue Star is SA’s main hub for contemporary (p)art(y), showing emerging and mid-career local artists alongside more established national and international touring shows, and anchoring the monthly First Friday melee of openings and beer-drinking. In the past two years, Blue Star has expanded its educational programming to introduce the joys of conceptual and post-conceptual art to the next generation. 116 Blue Star, (210) 227-6960, bluestarart.org
marion koogler mcnay art museum
The McNay is easily San Antonio’s most beautiful museum, and although the average guest’s age at the annual galas hovers near August temps, view this not as a problem, but an opportunity. Get your friends in on the ground floor now, and y’all could be running the board in a decade. The original building, the barely modified 1920s Spanish Colonial Revival home of its namesake heiress and arts patron, and the new Jean-Paul Viguier-designed addition, sit on 23 acres of sculpture-dotted rolling green in the heart of Alamo Heights/Terrell Hills. Modern masterpieces by the greats, from Gauguin to Renoir to O’Keeffe (and including a significant Picasso collage) are still the heart of the collection, but the sharp eye of Chief Curator Rene Barilleaux is shaping the growing post-World War II collection to fit the light-filled new wing. The McNay also has a notable collection of works on paper, including prints by Goya, Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Jasper Johns, and an outstanding theater-arts collection and library. 6000 N New Braunfels, (210) 824-5368, mcnayart.org
san antonio museum of art
SAMA is San Antonio’s requisite “encyclopedic” museum, but recent leadership has concentrated efforts in some particularly enticing areas — early Asian artifacts, including some rare and exceptional pottery; Latin-American art; and a redo of its Greek and Roman galleries to better show off the sculpture — and recently endowed chair for modern and contemporary art, curator David Rubin, is bringing the museum solidly into the 20th century. The Lenora and Walter F. Brown Asian Art Wing is an airy, contemporary complement to the historic Lone Star Brewery building that houses the other collections. The addition of a café run by Damien Watel overlooking the new Museum Reach of the River Walk — from which you can easily walk to the Pearl Brewery or downtown — makes it a day-trip-worthy destination. 200 W Jones, (210) 978-8100, samuseum.org
southwest school of art
This ain’t your grandmother’s crochet sampler. The Southwest School of Art’s historic campus, on the grounds of the 19th-century Ursuline Academy and Convent rivals the McNay in beauty — and clocks it for accessibility: you can wander up to the beautiful limestone buildings from the River Walk, past the welcoming mosaic bench honoring arts patron Bernard Lifshutz. The bench’s inscription makes the strongest case for joining: Ars longa. Vita brevis. As its name implies, Southwest School offers a slate of award-winning arts classes in almost any medium you can name, and the adjacent modern Navarro campus is home to consistently stellar exhibits showcasing artists who explore the elastic boundary between kitschy hobby and timeless works of the soul. 300 Augusta & 1201 Navarro, (210) 224-1848, swschool.org
Sure, the Witte stole Native American bones back in the original Maverick days, but everyone was doing it. It was called archeology. The 21st-century version of the Texophile museum sticks to less-controversial cadavers, such as mummies and the wildly popular dinosaur and Chinese bodies exhibits. This is a great museum for parents whose kids will find something to pester them about repeatedly (the small working sluice and dam, the H-E-B Science Treehouse, the Fiesta gowns, etc.). A planned expansion that will fully embrace adjacent Brackenridge Park and the San Antonio River flowing through its backyard is guaranted to increase its weekend-adventure appeal. 3801 Broadway, (210) 357-1863, wittemuseum.org
Note that each of these organizations offers additional membership options, so be sure to visit the website or call the numbers listed (many of them member hotlines). Family-level memberships usually cover two adults and all underage kids in the household.
Bihl Haus Arts
This community-oriented gallery is managed by local docents, and is sited in an historic Hill Country stone residence in the Deco District, featuring mid-career and emerging local artists, theater, poetry readings, and lectures. 2803 Fredericksburg, (210) 383-9723, bihlhausarts.org
Oldest artist-run alternative space in SA, offering shows by artists from in and out of Texas since 1995, managed by local artists Leigh Anne Lester and Jayne Lawrence as a nonprofit escape from artstore hype. 106C Blue Star, (210) 226-6688, cactusbraspace.com
David Shelton Gallery
Smart contemporary art from Texas, with a strong bent towards SA, done with a strictly pro attitude and delivery. Well known names include Vincent Valdez, Joey Fauerso, Alejandro Diaz, and Dan Sutherland; over 20 artists working in diverse media. 20626 Stone Oak Pkwy Ste. 202, (210) 481-5200, davidsheltongallery.com
Justin Parr’s gallery in the 1906 Flores complex is part experimental art space, part community art shop and co-op, and all fun. Home of “Keep San Antonio Lame” t-shirts. 1906 S Flores, (210) 872-2586, turnitoff.tv
Gallista Gallery complex
Chicano community art nexus starring Chispas Guerrero, Jane Madrigal, L.A. David, etc., where Joe Lopez’s Gallists host shows along the lines of the MeChicano Alliance of Space Artists. 1913 S Flores, (210) 212-8606, gallista.com
Joan Grona Gallery
Local, national, and international mid-career and emerging artists working in styles ranging from contemporary realism to abstraction; mostly painting. Collectors: keep your eye on this spot. 112 Blue Star, (210) 225-6334, joangronagallery.com
Under the guidance of Hills Snyder, this art duplex produces conceptually oriented experiments with an emphasis on interaction and provocation. 517 Stieren, (210) 852-4492, saladiazart.org
San Angel Folk Art
San Angel’s team of curators, led by owner Hank Lee, select fine vernacular and emerging art from Latin and plain ol’ America. 110 Blue Star, (210) 226-6688, sanangelfolkart.com
Unit B (Gallery)
Combination gallery and project space, home to site-specific shows and affordable art by local and out-of-town artists on their way to critical acclaim. 500 Stieren, (312) 375-1871, unitbgallery.com
UTSA Satellite Space
UTSA art grad students and recognized artists show work that is selected to challenge the bar in monthly contemporary art shows. 115 Blue Star, (210) 212-7146, art.utsa.edu/satspacegallery.html
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