in the Public Realm
Want to receive the CultureNOW newsletter in your e-mail inbox? Click here to sign up for our mailing list!

Previous Newsletters Vol. 2  Issue 6 - June, 2012

Cities of all sizes that have recently rediscovered their waterfronts, and embraced them as a catalyst for developing urban communities. New York has just declared its 520 miles of coastline to be its sixth borough and issued a comprehensive plan to reclaim the city's edge. Bike paths, waterfront parks, recreational facilities, artwork both temporary and permanent and performance spaces are sprouting along riverfronts from Boston to Seattle. Even Los Angeles which almost completely encased its riverbed in concrete in the 30's is actively engaged in revitalizing its riverfront.

The granddaddy of all water-based developments has got to be River Walk in terms of a city transforming what could have been a drainage channel to mitigate flood control into the premiere cultural feature of its downtown. Since the first river carnival and night parade was held on March 14, 1941 San Antonio has never looked back. Their vision and continuing commitment to using the river as a cultural catalyst has lessons for the rest of us 'late bloomers'. It's fitting that our colleagues in the public art world many of whose hometowns are launching festivals and art programs around their own rapidly gentrifying waterways would have selected San Antonio to host their annual conference so that they can be truly inspired about what is possible and how cities can embrace their natural features to celebrate their resources, culture and heritage.

This issue is about place and what creates places. We are showcasing the cultural richness and diversity of a single city, San Antonio. It's extensive public art collection is peppered everywhere throughout the city, not only inside and in front of many public buildings as well as in the parks and surrounding country. Bill FitzGibbons a local sculptor who can be often found at Blue Star is our featured artist. We wanted to share the work of three of the most interesting architecture firms in town: Lake|Flato Architects, Alamo Architects and Overland Partners Architects. And, we are launching a self guided tour of, what else, River Walk. A stroll below grade is in our view the best way to experience this amazing city.

Abby Suckle, President

Featured Art Collection:

Since much of the entire public art world is about to descend on this fabulous city, we felt that we owed it to our colleagues to share with them some of the jewels of this collection that are not easily found in the usual tourist haunts. Of course, in a large collection, there were a lot to choose from.

We thought that it would be fun to highlight some of the interesting recently commissioned artwork that not only might require a bit of trip further afield from the public buildings, airport, and river, but also artworks that are site specific.

A lot of art in the public realm can be plunked down on a site almost as if it has dropped in from outer space. There are plenty of sculptures of men on horseback and odd geometric forms sprinkled throughout our cities that cause you to wonder what the people who put them there must have been drinking. But, public art can be very elevating. When it is done well, the artwork and how it sits in the landscape creates a real dialog with the place where it is located, causing you to step back, rethink, and perhaps reboot the place.

There are two Soccer Balls by Riley Robinson which speaks to the landscape, sport. Makin Hay by Tom Otterness and Nessie, Elizabeth Carrington's reinterpretation of the Lockness Monster in a Texas setting. The fourth piece, Light Sculpture is beautifully lit at night. Well, during the day, it works too.

Soccer Ball (2010) Riley Robinson
Photo courtesy of Public Art San Antonio

Makin Hay (2002) Tom Otterness
Photo courtesy of Public Art San Antonio

Nessie (2011) Elizabeth Carrington
Photo courtesy of Public Art San Antonio

Light Sculpture (2009) Cakky Brawley
Photo courtesy of Public Art San Antonio

In Partnership with the AIA San Antonio Chapter, we are inaugurating a new self-guided architectural tour of River Walk. Ann Benson McGlone, former Historic Preservation Officer for San Antonio, where she oversaw design review of the River Walk shares her insights into many of the places along the route.


Ricardo Legoretta

One of the most provocative and iconic civic buildings in town is the public library. On the outside, it's painted in shades of pink; inside are some of the city's most interesting artwork such as the glass mobile hanging in the atrium.

Artist: Dale Chihuly


cultureNOW is a 501c3


Bill FitzGibbons is a San Antonio artist who wears two hats. As a sculptor, his work can be found throughout the country.. But he is also strongly committed to arts education and promoting the arts. Since 2002, in his day job, he has served as the President and Executive Director of the Blue Star Contemporary Art Gallery. What makes his artwork compelling is that sculptures are often designed as forms in the landscape and if they are lit, it is usually by a spotlight from afar. He has been working with integral LED lighting which incorporates an 'after dark' component. At night the pieces are transformed into something almost completely different adding a new dimension to the work.

Light Channels (2006) Bill FitzGibbons
Photo courtesy of Public Art San Antonio

Daystar Archway (1999) Bill FitzGibbons
Photo courtesy of Public Art San Antonio

Featured Architects:

We usually don't feature multiple architects in each issue because it's hard to show a range of their work, but we couldn't resist adding three of the most interesting and provocative architectural firms in San Antonio this month. What unites them is work that blends a serious commitment to the history and community of San Antonio, and a passion for the arts. Each of them is addressing the challenges of building in this city creating iconic cultural buildings that are embedded in this place. They are all also concerned with creating a local architecture for the harsh climate that blends sustainability with the natural use of energy control like sun screening, trellises and ventilation. They use the local materials, brick and stone. In other words they are engaged with creating the urban settings that make San Antonio its own place. They are young firms, and vibrant firms interested in exploring how to create really evocative spaces. What we're showing is a range of projects of all types that have become some of the special civic icons and destination buildings.

Main Plaza - Alamo (2009)
Lake|Flato Architects
Pearl Brewery (2010)
Lake|Flato Architects
SoFlo Office Campus (2007)
Alamo Architects
Humane Society/SPCA (2002)
Alamo Architects
River North Pavilion & Terrace, San Antonio Museum of Art
Overland Partners Architects
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Overland Partners Architects