Thirty five local kids were asked what it means to be from San Antonio…Texas, and the world. And then they were given art supplies. That artwork now hangs in the Institute of Texan Cultures in an exhibit called “Little Texan, Big World.”
When you walk in to the exhibit “Little Texan, Big World,” the first thing you see is a wall of mounted photographs: palm trees, churches, close ups of flowers, and water and stones. On another wall are the wooden memory boxes. Altogether they hang in the shape of a Texan flag and each box displays trinkets of how the child feels he or she fits into the community. They hold fiesta metals, dried flowers, beads, and figurines. And statement pieces about the children’s community written in magic marker, hang on all the walls. One declares San Antonio is special because you can “order watermelon raspas from the ice cream man.”
Aaron Gallegos is a Community Center Leader at San Antonio Parks and Recreation. He was also the photographer instructor for the project and took the kids in small groups on field trips all over San Antonio.
“I gave them a little tip to put their arms like a T-Rex. That will reduce shaking of the camera,” Gallegos says.
Gallegos says once many of the kids got into the open spaces they started running around. Not 12-year-old Victoria Campos. He says on her field trip to the Missions she was perfectly composed, taking her time, sitting on a rock looking out over the river.
“I could see also her trying different things out, opening her arms up and trying to get a different angle,” Gallegos says. “She really took to the project and her pictures came out beautifully. I couldn’t have been more proud.”
Victoria says her favorite parts of the project were learning techniques from Gallegos and spending time by a new San Antonio spot—the water near the missions.
“Getting to see all the different places and just the pictures look really pretty, so you just feel like you’re there” Victoria says. “You get lost in the photo.”
Gallegos says some of the kids at the center have never left their neighborhoods and he thinks art can help expand their boundaries.
“To be able to take them to environments where the scenery is great, to be able to explain to them about the light and how it illuminates your subjects or photographs, or how shadows play on a drawing, just to be able to explain that to them, I feel is enough to give them a different perspective,” Gallegos.
Melanie Schwebke is an Education Specialist at the Institute. She says she’s particularly fond of ten-year- old Denis Periz’s statement piece hanging on the wall. When asked what it means to be from San Antonio, Denis wrote about eating fajitas, beans and rice and potato salad with her family, and having Blue Bell ice cream for dessert.
“Like this one in particular, that Blue Bell ice cream—they love Blue Bell ice cream, and they’re talking about eating it at their birthdays and they don’t realize that that’s not found everywhere in the U.S.,” Schwebke says. “And so I was talking with them and just saying, ‘Oh, you know you can’t find Blue Bell ice cream everywhere,’ and it was like,’Ohhh, really? ‘”
Fifteen-year-old Jazz Fernandez created one of the memory boxes. He says he didn’t know what to put in his box. So he settled on figurines of a skater, some astronauts, a gorilla, Taz from Loony Toons and… Saint Mary.
At first it was scary because I didn’t know what people would think about it, but at the opening I just saw people enjoying all the artwork,” Jazz says. “So I just felt proud of myself and just realized that it was pretty cool to have my artwork at the museum.”
Schwebke says visitors come from all over world to see the art at the Institute. They’ll be able to see the pride these children take in calling San Antonio home.