San Antonio is a vibrant, modern city that simultaneously embraces its storied history. The past rubs shoulders with the present in this city. Consider the fact that just a few steps away from The Alamo—built in 1718 to memorialize the courage and bravery of those who fought for Texas independence—is the iconic and festive River Walk, the nation’s largest urban ecosystem and the heart of San Antonio’s burgeoning arts scene.
In 2011, a new ordinance was passed in San Antonio. It specified that one percent of the city’s capital improvement budget must go to public art. This spurred a variety of art projects and initiatives throughout the city. Now, street art is abundant, and numerous art museums dot the urban landscape.
Read on to learn more about the artistic side of San Antonio and the city’s most popular spots for seeing street art, exhibits, and displays.
River Walk Public Art Garden
San Antonio’s River Walk is the Lone Star State’s most popular tourist attraction. The River Walk Public Art Garden brings open-air art to a lesser-known section of the iconic attraction. The project was launched in 2019 with the installation of five iron sculptures by Mexican artist Sebastian.
There are also the uplifting metal flower sculptures created by Leticia Huerta. The Stargazer is a sculpture crafted from volcanic rock. It is the work of Mexican artist Pedro Reyes. A more recent installation is Green Spaces at Market Street. It is a painted steel railing depicting local flora and fauna via steel cut-outs, made by artists Ashley Mireles and Cade Bradshaw.
San Antonio Street Art Initiative
The San Antonio Street Art Initiative (SASAI) brings street art to city neighborhoods. In its first two years, SASAI sponsored almost 50 murals created by about 30 artists. In December 2020, the organization unveiled a new mural entitled “We Love our South Side.”
In downtown San Antonio, you’ll see projects of the Centro San Antonio’s Art Everywhere initiative. For example, Kathy Sosa’s “Keep Calm et Macaron” playfully celebrates the macaron cookie. It is just around the corner from the French bakery, La Boulangerie. Another Art Everywhere project is a collaboration of Justin Parr and Anthony Dean-Harris. It is a mural entitled, “Instructions for Use for Adapting to Our State of Constant Change.”
5 Top Museums in San Antonio
There are more than a dozen museums in San Antonio. Here are five particularly devoted to art and culture. Collectively, they celebrate artistic achievements in Texas and throughout the world.
San Antonio Museum of Art
The San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) is in a complex of buildings that once housed the Lone Star Brewery. Your hosts invite you to “come curious” and “leave inspired.” Here, art displays span 5,0000 years of human history. The museum houses one of the South’s most notable displays of ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian art. The Asian art wing displays a significant collection of Chinese ceramics. Works from India, Japan, and Korea are also on display. Other wings display Latin American and contemporary art.
McNay Art Museum
In 1954, the McNay Art Museum became the state’s first modern art museum. It is a personal triumph of artist and art collector Marion Koogler-McNay. After her passing, her Spanish Colonial-Revival home was transformed into an art museum. You’ll find hundreds of works she collected during her lifetime. Enjoy paintings by renowned artists like Picasso, Chagall, and Matisse. Review highlights of the collection here.
Briscoe Western Art Museum
Nestled along the banks of the River Walk is the Briscoe Western Art Museum. It occupies the building housing the city’s public library in the 1930s. Paintings, sculptures, drawings, and sketches illustrate the expansive beauty of Western landscapes. Learn about the lifestyles of the cowboys, vaqueros, and indigenous peoples. Covered wagons and other historic artifacts complement the stunning Western art. In the culture garden, you’ll find bronze sculptures depicting life in the American West.
In the early 1920s, English teacher Ellen Schultz dreamed of a museum for her beloved San Antonio. A bequest from Alfred W. Witte led to the opening of the museum in 1926. Today, the Witte Museum is promoted as a place where “science, nature, and culture meet.” The South Texas Heritage Center houses a large collection of historic artifacts. Exhibits feature everything from dinosaurs and early inhabitants to modern-day science. The Brackenridge Park campus also includes historic structures. There are two log cabins home of the son of Angel Navarro, the city’s mayor in the late 18th century.
Ruby City is truly a gem of a contemporary art museum. It is the realization of Linda Pace’s dream to exhibit her art collection in a public environment. Architect David Adjaye designed the distinctive crimson-colored building. The collection includes contributions by dozens of internationally acclaimed artists.
Living in San Antonio
San Antonio’s growing arts scene is one of the many reasons that young professionals and families alike are moving to the fast-growing Texas city.
Are you looking for an elegant, yet comfortable community in North San Antonio? Here’s an outstanding option from Draper and Kramer.
Sonterra Blue is a luxury apartment community in north San Antonio. It is approximately 15 miles due north of the museums of downtown San Antonio. The open floor concept features 9 and 10-foot ceilings. Kitchens include European-style cabinetry and contemporary fixtures. Select units include a private fenced backyard, patio, or balcony. Head to the elegant clubhouse for a workout at any hour. Relax in the large outdoor pool or the adjoining hot tub. Enjoy resort-style living that complements the San Antonio lifestyle.
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