Call for Artists: Be Part of Heritage - CO LAB Magazine

Local artists, take heed: there is a public art project rolling out that’s head and shoulder above others, and you need to throw your name in the hat this time. The reason? The art is to be a new landmark along the World Heritage Mission Trail.

Public art projects are started and completed every year using city-designated funds, and they produce most of the beauty fused into public spaces. Many you likely see every day without realizing for what they are. The artists who create them are selected from a pool of applicants, but too often the artist selected is a professional from across the country, as is the case with the District 9 project currently underway.

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Before you get too incensed, this isn’t wholly the result of snubbing locals in favor of well-dressed, flown-in talent. These circuit veterans are very well practiced at representing their art, skills, and selves; but more than that, there is a historic comparable lack of local applicants.

For this project in particular, that needs to change. Symbolically, there’s too much on the line here.

“Please, please apply for this. Even if you think you may not be the right artist, please apply. We really want you to be on this list.”

— DAC Project Manager Kimberly Mirelez

In last month’s virtual public art meeting, project manager Kimberly Mirelez described the project’s goal as one to “create a new landmark along the trail which highlights which highlights the culture, heritage and history of the missions, the people, and the neighborhoods of the area.” The proposed site for the project is a small traffic island along Mission Road very near to Mission San Jose and Marquee Plaza.

The future site of the World Heritage Trail public art installation.
The future site of the World Heritage Trail public art installation. Image courtesy San Antonio Department of Arts and Culture.

The project will work closely with the Office of Historic preservation in following guidelines that ensure its fit with neighborhood character. It was also noted that the site might very well turn up archaeological discoveries once work starts, and any might very well be incorporated into the theme of the final product. So far, the possible themes in consideration include:

  • history of the natural environment along the trail,
  • history of the indigenous population along the trail,
  • culture and life along the trail,
  • historical architecture of the trail,
  • and a look to the future along the trail.

This opportunity stands out for obvious reasons: high profile, high visibility, and most of all, a concrete part of our city’s story. This also makes this appeal to local artists all the more urgent: far too many of these public art projects go to national artists. This is our heritage. This needs to go to our artists.

It sounds like the Department of Arts and Culture is getting tired of that too. During the meeting, Kimberly Mirelez placed an unusual emphasis on getting more local artists to sign up for the application pool.

“Please, please apply for this,” she said. “Even if you think you may not be the right artist, please apply. We really want you to be on this list.”

If the city is as exasperated as we are seeing these projects awarded to big-name artists, the onus is on us to get local artists informed, prepared, and signed up. The project is still in the beginning stages, and there’s still time to get the word out and equip local talent with both the resources and the confidence to take these opportunities for themselves.

If you’re a local artist or know one who fits the bill — even if you’re not a sculptor, as Mirelez herself insisted — here’s what you need to do:

  • You have until January 18, 2021 to get into the 2021 Open Call for artists.
  • Get your portfolio together that includes any photos and videos on hand of your work, make sure it’s up to date, and consider asking a friend or a professional to give it a second pair of eyes.
  • Prepare or polish your already existing artist resume. If you don’t have one or don’t know what to do, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Read over the informational guidelines here provided by the DAC. Please note well the part that says, “Should artists with limited experience apply to this call? Yes.”
  • When you’re ready, go to https://sanantonio.gosmart.org/ to create a profile, submit your accompanying materials, and get registered for the pre-qualified list of artists with DAC.
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Once you’re registered, your spot on the list lasts for three years so this is time well spent. On our end, we’re planning to put together a package of tutorials and resources aimed at helping local artists better represent themselves professionally and successfully.

The final note here is this; if you’re still unsure if you fit this bill, take it from both city officials and us: please, give it a shot and find out.

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