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Carmen Tafolla goes public with her love of art and artists

005-010 CCC Carlos Cortes. '09 River Walk near Newell Str. Br. KH8A8264 1ab.jpg
Frederick Preston
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Carlos Cortes's palapa across the San Antonio River from The Grotto

There’s a gathering at La Villita on Friday that will honor a subset of San Antonians whose work is everywhere but who labor in relative obscurity.

It’s San Antonio’s former Poet Laureate Carmen Tafolla who decided to herald them in a new book.

She loves the art in the Alamo City. “There's an awful lot of art going up. There's art everywhere,” Tafolla said.

In this book, she spoke about one kind of art in particular: public art. She said public art in San Antonio traces back in a sense to concepts expressed in the Mexican Revolution.

“Art was not just for the wealthy,” she said. “Art wasn't just for those who could afford to buy pieces and keep them in their home or who could afford to pay access to museums.”

She said public art is at its core an egalitarian gesture. In San Antonio, it’s clearly on a growth curve.

001-001 BBB Paul Garson '18. Aerosol painting. St Marys Str. & I 35 KH8A4727 1aa Paul Garson '18.jpg
Frederick Preston
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Paul Garson '18. Aerosol painting. St Marys Str. & I 35

“In these last 10, 15 years there's been a tremendous amount of growth and enthusiasm for and appreciation of what art does for us,” Tafolla said.

With that in mind, she collaborated with photographer Fred Preston and produced a book on San Antonio public art called Arte Del Pueblo.

“And it has 300 photographs, more than 234 artists represented,” she said. “From murals to sculpture to ceramic carvings on bridges and walls. We have everything from grand masters internationally recognized, to young artists who are self-taught.”

In Arte Del Pueblo, Tafolla binds the visuals together with poetic context.

“I created a poetic narrative to weave together the photographs in a way that would tell the history and the culture and the spirit of San Antonio,” she said.

Arte del Pueblo Final Front Cover.jpg
Frederick Preston
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Arte Del Pueblo book cover

Many public artists are expected at Friday’s book launch at La Villita, as well as student Mariachis, and professional musicians Azul Barrientos and Juan and Armando Tejeda. Tafolla said public artists’ recognition was long overdue.

“This is the role of art: to take anything and turn it into an expression that has meaning for people, and that helps us as we survive through the many experiences that human beings have to survive,” Tafolla said.

The event is free and open to the public.  

Texas Public Radio is supported by contributors to the Arts & Culture News Desk including The Guillermo Nicolas & Jim Foster Art Fund, Patricia Pratchett, and the V.H. McNutt Memorial Foundation.

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