The site of a new Senior Center planned in San Antonio’s District 9 is also the site of one of the newest city-funded Public Art Projects. On Tuesday, the Department of Arts and Culture held a virtual conversation to present an unveiling of the concept and the artist chosen, and to field questions from the community and local stakeholders.
Councilman John Courage made brief opening remarks on proposed concept for the project: nature.
The center, which will be located on West Rhapsody, west of West Avenue, will be of limestone brick construction popular in the Hill Country and set against a woodland backdrop. Councilman Courage acknowledged that such a center must promote well-being for its senior residents through its design. The holistic design readily incorporates the soothing sylvan setting — but the heavy lifting will not fall upon the healing properties of nature alone.
“Art has an effect on your well-being, as well,” the councilman said.
The department selected Stephen Galloway as the artist to carry out the project. Galloway, who is based San Francisco, says his art has always been about nature, and his works often focus on natural realism. In his video speech, Galloway stated the importance of understanding place in order to create meaningful artwork for this location.
“Connection to nature is built into the senior center,” he says. With its woodland setting and access to green spaces, he wishes to use this opportunity to emphasize that already present connection.
The finished art installations are to be 24-foot-wide and 10-foot-tall panels depicting stylized live oak and pecan trees, illuminated with natural light falling from a cupola above. Each panel will further be divided visually in a manner that mimics the limestone brick façade so prominent in the center’s Hill Country aesthetic.
Cathleen Crabb, Senior Architect, is the project manager for the District 9 Senior Center. Current designs for the center feature classrooms, a computer café, and an “art room” in its floor plan. This art room will function as a space for creative activities conducted with support from Bihl Haus Arts, and will also be an area where visitors can view the residents’ creations on display.
The response from the public-in-attendance was very positive when the session was turned over to their questions and comments.
One very thoughtful concern asked if the art would be touchable. The answer was a well-prepared yes: the panels of the artwork are by design easy maintained and cleaned in the expectation and encouragement of tactile interaction with senior residents.
Another participant noted a lack of mention of wildlife in the art; Mockingbirds and similar Texas familiars were a great part of their personal enjoyment of nature, and they wondered if the finished work might not also benefit from their inclusion.
These suggestions were taken readily and enthusiastically for consideration.
At the end of the presentation, Councilman Courage added that the project was also open to donations of private art suitable for hanging in the center, and he encouraged any enquiries in that regard directed to his office.