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Arts & Culture

The Man Best Suited For Fiesta Turns His Attire Into Art

A new exhibit set to open at the Institute of Texan Cultures, just in time for Fiesta. Michael Quintanilla is one of two artists exhibiting works that fit perfectly into the biggest party of the year.

"It's called Fiesta Passion, Fiesta Fashion," Quintanilla said. He knows quite a bit about both.

"I've been a long-time fashion journalist, [a] former fashion writer for The Los Angeles Times, where I wrote about fashion, international fashion -- New York, Milan, Paris -- twice a year," Quintanilla said.

He returned to San Antonio to write for the Express-News about a decade ago, and he targeted the city’s biggest celebration: Fiesta.

"That's when I started making my hats and my costumes, and the shoes just to be a big part of it, in a big way," he said.

He wasn't exaggerating. His four-foot tall butterfly hat featured about a hundred butterflies alighting on his childhood butterfly-style kite. He salvaged that kite decades ago after a tree snatched it from the sky. But that’s not his only hat.

"I have a really cool hat that is three giant, stacked casarones," he said.

That hat had a very Fiesta-centric function: He attached a tube to a reservoir of confetti in the hat. "So I can blow a puff of air into the tube, and [get] a big explosion of confetti. And everybody gets a kick out of that!" he said.

Credit Jack Morgan | Texas Public Radio
Michael Quintanilla

He also re-purposed an elegant Prada suit.

"And I completely glued the suit with metallic confetti,” he said. “The children love it, and I'm completely surprised that the adults love it!"

These outfits make Quintanilla walking billboard for all things Fiesta. That may explain why Angelica Docog and Victoria Ingalls with the Institute of Texan Cultures contacted him about exhibiting his handmade creations. He was reluctant at first.

"They've convinced me that it is art, which said to me that we all have that in us. We all are artists, you know?” he said. “Don't think you can't do it, because you can!"

He encouraged people to re-ignite their sense of what Fiesta means to them.

"Fiesta is an experience. And it can come in the way of food or drink or a parade,” Quintanilla said. “But I think it also comes in the way of fashion. What you wear, what you decide to put on your head and feet during Fiesta. It's so much fun. I think that's the joy of Fiesta."

Also featured in the exhibit are the hats of artist Graciela Carillo. The exhibit runs through May 5.

Jack Morgan can be reached at Jack@TPR.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii.