This Saturday Sala Diaz will present The Long Table of Love, a dinner and art sale to benefit Casa Chuck, its new residency program for artists, art curators, and writers. Residency programs have become a hallmark of nonprofit arts in SA — Artpace was founded to house them, and Blue Star fronts them, too. This program might have a different flavor, though, as it promises to continue the legacy of Chuck Ramirez, the accomplished artist and heart of the community for whom it is named. Ramirez died in a bicycle accident last fall, but his loss seems to have strengthened the art community’s resolve to continue that special something that makes SA a magical place. Though lacking in moneyed galleries, SA has a robust community of artists who “care as much about the pursuits of the group as they do for their own work,” said San Antonio Museum of Art curator David S. Rubin. One of the places that tradition began was at Chuck Ramirez’ dinner table.
Before moving to Sala Diaz, Ramirez and his table lodged above Franco Mondini-Ruiz’ botánica on South Flores. The conversation and fellowship shared there (and later in the yard of Sala Diaz where it was moved) are legendary. The South Flores dinner parties helped inspire Alejandro Diaz to start his own project in 1995, and Sala Diaz has survived, according to Sala Diaz director and curator Hills Snyder, through “11 years of elbow grease and goodwill.” A nonprofit since 2007, Sala Diaz now benefits from donations to continue hosting art shows and visiting artists.
The Long Table of Love will be a night of camaraderie, good food, and music like that shared at Ramirez’ table, which was made for him by Lars Hundere. A copy of the table has been made by Nate Cassie, an artist who once lived in the compound, and will be auctioned at the event. Also at auction to benefit the new residency program, which will allow visiting participants to live and work in Chuck Ramirez’ old apartment and studio at Sala Diaz, are bicycle helmets that have been altered by over 35 local artists. When Ramirez’ bike was struck last November, he was riding bareheaded. Look carefully, and you will see a bicycle helmet atop the head of the guy driving the tractor that is the Contemporary Art Month logo.
I asked Hills Snyder if he could explain to me how the SA arts community has become so robust without the level of commercial support one finds in towns like Houston or New York. “I don’t have a theory, but it’s happening here — we’re keeping the ball bouncing,” he replied. “The scene is cooperative because the artists are. It’s not dependent on any particular people.” Snyder has his own art and music interests, but did not want them spotlighted in this story. That, it seems to me, is an example of the character of the city. Sala Diaz might be a microcosm of the whole place, and what is going on here has been described by Anne Wallace and others as social sculpture, another term, it seems, for social art practice, which has become an important movement. Social art practice involves people, not just paint and other art supplies. Most importantly, the people are not passive viewers, but active participants in the project, the artist more instigator than author. Affection tends to bring people together quicker than compulsion. That SA compels many artists to move here, and drives those who have left to return, may be because it is the home of the table of love.
The Long Table of Love
$100 seats at table,
$25 BYOB after 9:30pm
7pm Sat, Mar 19