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Art Installation Connecting Southside Neighborhoods

Frank Gonzales
COSA photographer

Underneath heavily-traveled Interstate 35 at Theo and Malone, in an unexpected place for art, six spherical chandeliers bathe the ground, concrete columns and underside of the bridge with rich, vibrant color and transform an otherwise industrial thoroughfare into an enjoyable space for pedestrians and drivers.

Ballroom Luminoso is the first public art project to be completed under the new bond program approved by voters in 2012.

"It changes color, but it changes very slowly," said Jimmy LeFlore with PASA, or Public Art San Antonio.

He said the viewer can enjoy the Ballroom Luminoso from a distance or up close, and drivers contribute to the experience by moving through the space and around the spheres.

"Because really there’s a lot of movement around this intersection, where there are cars coming and many of them are actually taking a turn. So they see several angles," LeFlore said.

Credit Eileen Pace / TPR
This Day of the Dead tribute is typical of iconic representations on all six spheres. Some have cacti riding bicycles. The spheres are metal sculptures made largely of recycled bicycle parts.

The play of slowly changing light begins at dusk and creates a space that gives the sense of a ballroom.

The chandeliers are made of recycled bicycle gears and sculptured metal, including whimsical iconography that invites the pedestrian to linger and examine the work more closely.

"You’ve got a tree riding a bicycle on this one, and this one over here has a great Day of the Dead motif, and it’s got a Calaveras Skull underneath. It’s got the skeletons riding bicycles," said LeFlore of some of the design concepts.

LeFlore said the timing of the artwork corresponded to a construction project that will improve roads, sidewalks and curbs on Theo and Malone, also part of the 5-year bond program.

People from different neighborhoods naturally separated by I-35 have come together around the project.

"People who were coming to the Taco Cabana and the Shamrock would lean out of their cars and they would say, 'What is this? This looks great,' and 'Is this going to be permanent?'" LeFlore said. "They are very happy that this is going to stay here and this is something for their community and they’re going to be able to see it all the time."

The City has more plans to bring the community together. LeFlore said the artists will meet with local residents at Burbank High School, less than a mile from the Ballroom, to discuss its origination and to get more people involved in neighborhood improvements. 

The project was temporarily lighted for the grand opening event, and CPS is working to complete the permanent wiring for Ballroom Luminoso this week.

Eileen Pace is a veteran radio and print journalist with a long history of investigative and feature reporting in San Antonio and Houston, earning more than 50 awards for investigative reporting, documentaries, long-form series, features, sports stories, outstanding anchoring and best use of sound.