Due to several factors largely related to an eventful 41st birthday celebration the night before, I missed the initial meet-up for Public Art San Antonio’s third artist-led bicycle ride (one in a series of seven, organized in conjunction with Public Art San Antonio’s summer 2010 “Que Pasa?” program). This particular ride was plotted by artist, gallerista, and dandy-about-town Justin Parr, and focused on the immediate downtown area. The 30-plus riders included artists and art enthusiasts, bike geeks, and the curious, with both new and long-time SA residents, and even some Austin folks drawn south by the fun. Although requested to come in costume or arty outfits, participants largely went for comfort and safety rather than artistic expression.
After meeting at the PASA Studio located on North St. Mary’s and spending a few minutes transforming their velocipedes into “art bikes” with stickers from Fl!ght Gallery and other materials at hand, the group started an unhurried Sunday evening cruise to its first destination.
Located in scenic Alamo Plaza, the iconic Mission San Antonio de Valero is one of San Antonio’s earliest examples of public art for tourists, according to Parr.
The tour headed toward HemisFair Park, passing Ken Little’s white-picket installation Homeland Security `see “Insecure at home,” May 26`. We stopped then at the series of works placed in the shadow of the Tower along the south wall of the Convention Center by San Antonio artists such as Cathy Cunningham and Alex DeLeon.
Our intrepid bikers continued to the Southtown neighborhood of Lavaca, specifically Florida Street between 281 and S. St. Mary’s, where an installation by Anne Wallace nearly 10 years in the making features images of the crops grown by the area’s earliest human inhabitants, and a variety of text memories from more recent longtime residents. (“I remember when they pulled the last old lady out… she was in a wheelchair. … When they tore everything down for HemisFair, that’s when I became familiar with the concept of eminent domain.”) Painter and assemblage artist Ed Saavedra, who assisted Wallace, was along for the ride and spent a few minutes discussing the work.
Riding west, we crossed the river by way of the attractive new Eagleland pedestrian bridge. We paused briefly at the Blue Star complex, where the motley permanent collection of artworks holding court in the parking lot over the years is currently joined by in-process chalk drawings on the asphalt, in anticipation of Artpace’s annual “Chalk It Up” event in October. Traveling through the King William neighborhood, we again crossed over the river twice, then rolled down to water level behind the San Antonio River Authority’s Guenther campus to ride along this verdant, tree-lined, and duck-inhabited section of the River Walk, an area once affectionately known as Sauerkraut Bend in a nod to the neighborhood’s 19th-century German settlers. This is one of the most peaceful and lovely places downtown, and a personal favorite to bike through, although I overheard one of the Austin riders mention that the concrete bulkheads lining the river made it feel more like a sewer. Can’t win ’em all, I guess.
We emerged again at street level on Durango and made our way to our final point of interest, Main Plaza, where rider and architect (and community-garden maven) Marc Toppel pointed out several of the carved pavers placed around our historic city center. These feature quotes about events in the Plaza from historical sources (the one I read was by Frederick Law Olmsted) all gathered by Trinity University professor and author Char Miller, who clearly had his tongue at least partially in cheek when he made his selections. The irreverent tone is matched by the cartoon-like illustrations of Celia Muñoz. Unfortunately, most of the 30 stones are not currently accessible (and most of the new fountains are turned off), due to the ongoing revitalization work in the Plaza — the city giveth and the city taketh away, at least for the time being. The history lesson continues in displays on the two vending kiosks in the Plaza, which also feature brightly colorful, vastly blown-up pen-and-ink drawings by Louis Vega Trevino. •
The next ride is on Tuesday, August 17. Get info or RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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