At 183 feet long and 14 feet high, Transformation is San Anto’s largest mural yet, and it depicts a quest as grand as its scale: chronicling the stories of change and hope among the city’s homeless population.
“The mural depicts the theme of transformation,” said lead muralist Gabriel Garcia, who led contributors from the San Anto Cultural Arts Community Mural Program. To find stories of change among the city’s homeless, San Anto enlisted the help of UTSA students from the Department of Social Work to conduct focus groups at University Health System clinics and SAMMinistries Shelter (now Haven for Hope). Students at Henry Ford Academy also lent assistance.
Garcia recounts that members of the homeless community “were asked what transformation meant to them. All the text on the wall comes from the people.” In addition to words, images were collected, too, as participants were asked “to illustrate what came to mind.” Photographs were taken during many interviews; these became the study sources for the portraits on the mural.
Painted in Nova Color on parachute silk, the mural was adhered to an external wall of Haven for Hope, and can be viewed from the fronting street. Garcia is a youth art instructor at SAY Sí, and is a graduate of its program, too. Prior to joining the SAY Sí after school art program, Garcia was learning design from the graffiti krews, an experience that taught teamwork, though under duress. At SAY Sí he moved into representational painting, eventually receiving a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2009. The portraits in the mural, though based on photographs, are masterful high realism, a difficult style in which Garcia excels. Traces of Garcia’s youth as a graf writer can be seen in the bold design of the work, and influence from other contemporary street artists is apparent in the sophisticated use of negative space and contrasting palettes. Look carefully. The design seems to read from left to right, but a flight of birds crosses in counter movement. Some of the faces are rendered in natural tones, others in black and white or sepia tones.
The mural will be dedicated from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. March 9 at Haven for Hope (1 Haven for Hope Way).
San Anto Cultural Arts was formed in 1993 as a community resource for artistic and spiritual growth. It publishes the community newspaper El Placazo and manages the Community Mural Program and the Video Oral History & Documentary Program.
More information at sananto.org.