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Artpace Brings Artists From Around The World To Create In San Antonio

Three times a year, three different artists converge in San Antonio. One from Texas, one from the U.S. and one from somewhere else in the world come to participate in Artpace’s residency program with one directive: create.  

Those artists come to the three-story, 18,000 square foot Artpace downtown on North Main Street. Artpace Communications Director Scott Williams said Linda Pace designed this art incubator from an old Hudson car dealership.

"Linda herself was an artist and a dreamer and a philanthropist and a collector. And so she founded Artpace as this laboratory of dreams, as she called it," he said.

She created that laboratory of dreams to expose the city to international arts. While here, each set of artists actually lives in Artpace’s  on-site apartments. Houston artist Francis Almendariz says Artpace's help was elemental in his exhibit.

"It was a huge, huge help to have all of these resources and a team that fully believes in you and backs you up in every way possible," he said. 

Credit Artpace
Linda Pace

Almendariz created a multimedia  art piece, showing video of workers in Nicaragua and Honduras, making tortillas, creating counterfeit Nikes and pounding drums in a marketplace.

"It's sort of like a living archive of history and memory and culture that you know gets passed down from generation to generation to generation," Almendariz said.

He felt an obligation to capture the image of people who history will otherwise forget.

"Immigrant bodies and people migrate around the world and offer up their bodies and their labor and search for a better life," he said.

The video of the man making Nike knock-offs shows his incessant work, and how the Mexican music on the radio seems to push his endeavors along. Almendariz notes that Hispanic workers at construction sites the world over almost always have Mexican music playing. 

Credit Chris Castillo
Francis Almendariz

"The radio playing kind of just kind of creates this atmosphere or to… it becomes almost meditative," he said. 

The next artist was here all the way from Ecuador. Juana Córdova makes much of her art from plants and found objects. Before coming to Artpace, she already had an idea about what she might make. While she understands English, she spoke mostly through a translator named Leticia Rocha-Živadinović.

"I had already been researching desert flora and fauna. And I had already been real interested in the tumbleweed to talk about migration," she said. 

The most eye-catching portion of Córdova's exhibit features four clear tubes with fans at the bottom of each, blowing up a small tumbleweed, which tumbles over and over within the tube. Córdova explained the concept through the interpreter this way. 

Credit courtesy the artist
Juana Córdova

"The keeping of these tumbleweeds captive within these tubes I'm making a reference to the migrants that are being held captive at the border, and being prevented from continuing on their natural path," Rocha-Zivadinovič said. 

She said tumbleweeds blow across borders as if they don't exist. As we spoke, the interpreter Leticia stopped and laughed uncomfortably, and put her head in her hands. She found it difficult to continue because she was crying. Córdova's art about immigrant families separated and jailed at the border was a tough subject for the interpreter.

"This is something I have a very emotional response to," she said. 

The last artist had already returned to New York. Residency Manager Erin Murphy described what the artist, who calls herself Narcissister, is all about.  

Credit Scott Williams

"The artist is a fictional character that the artist conceived of in 2007. She works primarily in performance she has done performances all over the world," Murphy said.

Narcisster's creations, like the other artists' can be seen at Artpace through September 9. These waves of artists fly in every three months for eight weeks of creation.

After their stay, artists present their work, then head back home. The apartments are cleaned, then the next crop of three will come to create.

Linda Pace died in 2007, but Williams said her legacy continues to give rise to new artists, and expose San Antonio to them.

"Next year Artpace celebrates its 25th anniversary. We brought more than 230 artists and over 70 curators well-known in the field of art from all over the world to San Antonio to leave their mark and their impact here," he said. 

You can see the work of the summer flock of artists, and other exhibitions at Artpace, seven days a week, and always for free.  

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

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