Selecting the best writers and artists to feature in a first-of-its-kind book couldn’t be that difficult, right? When Gemini Ink founder Nan Cuba (who was one of my instructors at Our Lady of the Lake University) and Trinity University Press Director Barbara Ras met for lunch in the summer of 2003, their chit-chat led to talk of putting together a book featuring local writers and artists. No comparable documentation of the local scene had been published, and given the diverse and ever-expanding array of local talent, it was a formidable task. What seems obvious on the page was a few years in the making.
“I love that we live in a city with such an exciting range of literary and visual art being created,” said Ras via email. “What we could manage to include in Art at Our Doorstep is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Artpace studio director Riley Robinson was handpicked by Linda Pace to work on the project before she fell ill. He modestly says that his role in Art at Our Doorstep wasn’t nearly as vital as Ras’s. “It’s not a definitive survey of contemporary art in San Antonio, but it’s a snapshot,” says Robinson. His nearly 14-year tenure at Artpace has given him the opportunity to meet a lot of local artists and get to know their work. “I have a really good view on artists,” he says.
Robinson had to whittle his visual-art picks down to 70 artists. Working at Artpace has developed his eye for “current contemporary works,” a talent that is noticeable in his selections for the anthology. Once the book was conceived, he says, it kept growing.
“Art at Our Doorstep is a triumph of collaboration. So many people worked so hard to make this the book it is, and I’m grateful for all their efforts,” says Ras. “The book resonates with a tremendous amount of energy — the talent that went into making it and the artistic talent in our city that it honors and showcases.”
Cuba considered it a great opportunity to foster a connection between the visual and literary communities. This wasn’t uncharted territory for Cuba, who as founder of Gemini Ink teamed up with Artpace for their 2 to Watch series, which pairs visual artists with writers. She found the task of translating that idea to literature a real challenge. “My feeling is that everyone would benefit — each of the artists whether visual or `written` there’s a symbiotic relationship,” says Cuba.
Cuba admits to being “very nervous” about choosing writers for the book. “I’m saddened by the fact that I couldn’t include everyone,” she says. “I wanted a collection of works to reflect what we all know about our city — it’s supposed to be a product of our city. I’m hopeful that people outside of Texas would read it … I mean look at the names we’ve got.”