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Arts & Culture

The North Side Is About To Get More Colorful With Local Artist's New Mosaic Benches

Not all public art is paid for with tax dollars. Under construction now is a series of eight pieces that eventually may inspire passersby to sit down and relax. Artist Oscar Alvarado talks about the massive job he's doing at the Rim on San Antonio’s North Side.

“That mortar sets up so fast in the Texas sun and heat!" he said.

He's transforming a dust-blown space under an acre traffic circle behind the Bass Pro Shop into a fanciful park — a respite from the busy commercial world that surrounds it.

"Basically, it's going to be the gem inside of the whole ring of the park," he said.

Alvarado cites the natural progressions of nature as his inspiration.

Artist Oscar Alvarado
Credit Jack Morgan | Texas Public Radio
Artist Oscar Alvarado

“Yeah, you'll see different textures and shapes throughout. It's a series of undulating forms that seem to come in and out of the earth,” Alvarado said. “These are fantastical flowering structures that don't mean anything but represent everything."

These rounded shapes are benches, though there’s not a straight line in sight. They’re built with colorful mosaic tile, stone and tinted glass, giving each piece an almost cartoon-like appearance. But their whimsical look belies their structural integrity.

"My footings are so deep and the concrete construction I use is so long-lasting that I hope they'll never find a reason to take these down because they certainly won't fall apart," he said.

The 130-linear-feet worth of benches will be shaded by trees and structures designed to cool what's below. But between now and his August completion, there is no shade. That didn’t seem to phase Alvarado.

"Ah, I grew up here on the south side without air conditioning. It's just a thing,” he said. “I'm wearing long sleeves right now!"

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Credit Jack Morgan
Oscar Alvarado benches

The park is being built with private dollars, but that will end up as very public art. 

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

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