San Antonio has the famous River Walk, but the walking is still far from over even after you’ve discovered this popular excursion. For a place nicknamed “Alamo City,” the chance to be outdoors, taking in the local art, should definitely be as large of a draw as a walk along the river.
Fortunately the thriving art scene in San Antonio offers as much for the visitor as for the local, with monthly and yearly festivals that showcase regional and national talent in San Antonio’s diverse historic neighborhoods.
Teeming with culture, the First Friday Art Walk in Southtown is appropriately named. Less than two miles south of downtown, this art walk is a celebration of art and crafts coupled with live music and good food. The anchor here is the Blue Star Arts Complex, the city’s first mixed-use development that’s now a thriving conglomeration of artists from all mediums. Jacqueline McGilvray, exhibitions and programs manager at Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum, says Blue Star Contemporary was actually the catalyst for revitalization of the area.
The longest-running monthly art event in the city hosts diverse, rotating exhibits, from paintings to ceramic sculptures and a lot in between.
First Friday also offers the chance to visit the neighboring King William district, recognized by the National Register of Historic Places and home to the popular Blue Star Brewing Company. April brings the annual King William Fair, a part of the city’s Fiesta event. The Fair combines eclectic art—ranging from drawing and painting to ceramics, apparel, fiber, glass, mixed media, leather, metal and wood—with colorful street performances and the sounds of rockabilly, bluegrass and jazz. Tempting smells waft from local food trucks and concessions selling funnel cakes, snow cones, tacos and barbeque.
On the second Friday of each month, the art scene heads north for the Second Friday Art Walk in the Tobin Hill area. Artwork and sculptures are front and center, but the art in Tobin Hill is just half the story. Since 2007, the area has been meticulously preserved and rightly named the Tobin Hill Historic District. Development in the area began in 1877 with Victorian and Neoclassical mansions, some as large as 4,000 square feet, as well as Craftsman-style bungalows and historic apartment buildings.
Former Tobin Hill Art Gallery owner Kimberly Newsome says the event was founded to promote the arts in all forms. It’s here you will find contemporary artists selling paintings, sculptures, photography and stone or ceramic sculptures amidst a party atmosphere of live performances and music.
Nearby, the San Antonio Museum of Art hosts a happy hour on the second Friday, showcasing pieces from the museum’s collection with music, gallery tours and themed cocktails. On the second Tuesday, SAMA also hosts a free monthly art walk called Art Fit: Art + Exercise.“ Runners of all levels are welcome to enjoy a gallery talk about fitness in the visual arts and then head out for a run,” says communications manager Tatiana Herrera-Schneider.
In South Flores, art is featured the second Saturday of each month in the heart of the city’s SoFlo Arts District, near the River Walk and Alamo. The Second Saturday crawl features not only art galleries but performance spaces with live music and indie film screenings, with the focal points being the Andy Benavides building, Joe Lopez’s Gallista Gallery complex and Bill FitzGibbons’ Lone Star Studios. Each venue creates its own unique vibe; for example, Lady Base Gallery features female-created work, 3rd Space Art Gallery and Comminos Art Studio Gallery are both run by husband-wife teams.
San Antonio visitors can add several annual art events to their bucket lists, such as February’s On & Off Fredericksburg Road Studio tour in the Deco District. Around 700 local artists call the area home and are proud to show visitors why. The smallest studios on the tour are called “glorified sheds” by some, and the largest are galleries/work spaces renovated from old grocery stores. Fredericksburg Road is part of the Old Spanish Trail, which was created as a route from Florida to California.
These days the area’s self-guided tours for the two-day event mean you can discover everything from large ceramic sculptures and metalwork to one-of-a-kind light fixtures or beadwork and embroidery.
In the Guadalupe Arts District Westside environs, a fall arts festival, normally held in October, called Una Noche en la Gloria focuses on Latino artists. Funky street art rounds out Chicano music, spoken word performances and a cutting-edge fashion show.
In November, the Olmos Park Terrace Uptown Art Stroll features a two-day, self-guided tour in the north central part of San Antonio near midtown, an area recently discovered by several celebrity chefs. The paintings, ceramics, mosaics, handmade tiles and even painted furniture can be called works of art in their own right, in this part of San Antonio that lays claims to early 20th-century homes.
SLIDESHOW: WALK OF ART
All photos ©Mark Greenberg