In 2022, when the MLK march sets off from Martin Luther King Jr. Park, it will have a new public sculpture at the starting point that becomes an iconic part of the march.
The San Antonio-based artist, Kaldric Dow, completed his monumental outdoor installation called Spheres of Reflection. With the piece reaching almost 17 feet in height, it’s a major achievement for Dow and artists of color in the city.
The steel & concrete sculpture called “Spheres” was both Dow’s first public art piece and first large scale sculpture. Created through the department of Arts and Culture’s “Sketch to Sculpture” program, Spheres was realised in 2019.
We recognized that in order to work towards diversity and equity in public art, we needed to be able to use all the resources at our disposal. Many artists would have difficulties working with large scale commission texts or material they weren’t well versed in. We want to provide what is usually unavailable for them so they can contribute more to the department’s goals, said Stacey Norton, administrator.
Previously, Dow had been known primarily as a portrait painter. He exhibited his work at Luminaria, AP Art Lab, and the San Antonio International Airport. He said he can easily generate ideas for sculptures but without the Sketch to Sculpture program, making Spheres and its companion piece installed in the River Walk Art Garden downtown would not have been possible.
“My initial idea for the piece began with a self-portrait and an elaborate hair style,” Dow stated while talking about his creative process. He started by sketching himself with an elaborate hairdo. “I find it empowering to know something I created myself was turned into drawings, then cut out, and finally turned into this 3D sculpture.”
The self-portrait evolved into a purposefully androgynous face in the 1980s when artist Roy Dow said in his retrospective last year with the museum: “I want people to feel familiar with the face to where it can represent someone in their family or their friends. On the subject of colors, “Cor-Ten” is an iron compound with a familiar industrial history. It’s uses cater to the demands of black skin tones like it does in Dow’s portraits.
Black culture’s widespread embrace of hair as a symbol of pride and celebration of heritage.
Dow states that special rings of black-painted steel spheres stacked four rows high evoke Black culture’s widespread embrace of hair as a symbol of pride and celebration of heritage. The sculpture gains resonance with its surroundings through words written on the lower rows of spheres. These quotes from Dr. King each have a meaning that reflects the mood of the sculpture, for example “Dream,” “Bold,” and “Desire.”
With completing Spheres of Reflection, Dow looks forward to the public dedication and MLK March on Jan. 11 and 17 respectively.
Quilts Tell a Story of Black Heritage
Quilts are not just for decoration or warmth. They can tell a story. The Tex-Mex Underground Railroad quilt, created by Dr. Lillian Jones, is an example of history one must never forget.
Her quilt depicts the trail many slaves took on their path to freedom from Texas to Mexico. More than 2,500 documented slaves escaped in Texas, most headed to Mexico. Slaves were helped by free Blacks, Mexican laborers and some German settlers who risked mobs, lynching, and brutal punishment.
San Antonio residents can learn about the slaves’ heroic journey, including crossing the Nueces Strip, where temperatures soared over 100 degrees with little to no water, at the Carver Cultural Community Center. The Tex-Mex Underground Railroad Quilt is part of a public exhibit, “These Ain’t Yo Big Mama’s Quilt!” open through Dec. 6 in the center’s lobby.
Jones is a part of the African American Quilt Circle of San Antonio, a nonprofit quilting community sharing the heritage of quilting and promoting the culture and traditions of African American quilting.
The group has produced and contributed to over 25 exhibits throughout San Antonio, Texan Institute of Cultures, and across the country and has a published book. This year the Quilt Circle was also featured in the national Quilt Folk Magazine. Jones is also excited that her Underground Railroad Quilt may be on display in January at the Museum of South Texas History in Edinburg. The museum’s mission is to preserve and present the borderland heritage of South Texas and Northeastern Mexico.
In celebration of five years as an organization and its commitment to storytelling through fiber arts, the Quilt Circle had a reception on Oct. 27 to kick off its gallery showcase. The community can view several quilts on display from 8 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday at the Carver.
The Quilt Circle is also sponsoring a raffle for their colorful “Black Angel” quilt using cotton, African fabric, and embellishments. The quilt took over three months to make, stitch, bind, quilt, and sew. Donations from the raffle will go towards its many philanthropic activities throughout the city and future exhibits.
The quilt’s retail value is estimated at $1,000. Tickets can be purchased online (bit.ly/AAQCSATX5yrs) for $20 for each entry or six tickets for $100.
Introducing Labor Plaza – A Public Art Tribute to the Labor Movement in San Antonio
DOWNTOWN PLAZA FEATURES SCULPTURES, POETRY AND VISUAL ARTS THAT WILL EDUCATE AND INSPIRE VISITORS.
SAN ANTONIO (September 2, 2022) – The City of San Antonio’s Department of Arts & Culture invites the community to visit the newly completed Labor Plaza, which highlights the contributions of the labor movement and labor leaders in San Antonio and the United States. San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg will be on-site for the official ribbon cutting ceremony which will be held on Monday, September 5, 2022 at 11:45 a.m.
Located in the River Walk Public Art Garden on Market Street across from the Henry B. González Convention Center, Labor Plaza is located in a space that was originally home to a sculpture of labor leader Samuel Gompers, created in 1982 by Betty Jean Alden. Due to irreparable structural damage caused by time and weather elements, the sculpture had to be decommissioned and deinstalled. The Department of Arts & Culture collaborated with American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) on a contemporary way to replace the sculpture and continue to recognize labor, civil rights and social justice in San Antonio in the space.
“Labor Plaza is a tribute to the contributions and sacrifices of labor leaders throughout the history of San Antonio,” said Department of Arts & Culture Executive Director Krystal Jones. “We hope that the community will find this space to be engaging, inspiring and educational as we commemorate the labor movement from the past to the present.”
Visitors to Labor Plaza will find etchings and visual artworks embedded throughout the plaza including a poem titled So that Our Crossing May Never be Obstructed and five artworks by Octavio Quintanilla, San Antonio Poet Laureate 2018 – 2020; an excerpt from labor anthem Solidarity Forever written by Ralph Chaplin in 1915; and biography etchings recognizing eight notable San Antonio labor figures. Influential leaders, who are honored at the space, include Emma Tenayuca, Hank Brown, Rebecca Flores, Joan Suarez, Robert Thompson, Linda Chavez-Thompson, Mario Marcel Salas, Samuel Gompers and Shelley Potter.
In addition, a sculptural series titled I Remember Everything by Washington-based artist Ries Niemi is installed within the plaza. The Department of Arts & Culture worked with San Antonio landscape architect firm Terra Design Group to craft the layout of the space to inspire learning and reflection on labor in San Antonio.
Linda Chavez-Thompson was the first Hispanic woman to serve as an Executive Board member of the National AFL-CIO in 1993 and then elected to a newly created position of Executive Vice-President of the National AFL-CIO in 1995. She served in office thru 2007, when she retired and came back home to San Antonio. “We are grateful to the City of San Antonio for recognizing the hard-fought efforts and accomplishments of the local labor movement through this beautiful Labor Plaza,” said Chavez-Thompson. “Personally, it is an honor to be included alongside such influential labor leaders, who have all had a tremendous impact on the labor movement so that working people today have better wages and working condition and workers’ rights.”
Labor Plaza is part of the River Walk Public Art Garden, which functions as an outdoor public art exhibition featuring works from San Antonio and international artists. Some artworks by San Antonio artists also featured here include “Bloom” by Leticia Huerta, “Green Spaces at Market Street” by Cade Bradshaw and Ashley Mireles, “Spheres of Reflection” by Kaldric Dow and “Najo Jām” by Carlos Cortés and Doroteo Garza.
For more information about Labor Plaza, the River Walk Public Art Garden and the Department of Arts & Culture’s Public Art Program, visit SanAntonio.gov/arts or follow the Department of Arts & Culture on social media at @GetCreativeSA.
Harmon and Harriet Kelley: A Treasure to San Antonio and the Nation
Unknown to some, Harmon and Harriet Kelley are real treasures to San Antonio’s Black community. Their collection of African American art has provided a rich tapestry of culture that would have been severely compromised had they not envisioned what saving Black art would mean for the world, the nation, and San Antonio. Philanthropy is described as “the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes.” The philanthropy of Harmon and Harriet Kelley has been their desire to purchase valued Black art and share it to promote the rich culture of African Americans with others, either by donations to museums, exhibitions, or collections for the world to see. I am particularly proud that the Kelley family resides in San Antonio and the Black community should honor their presence.
Harmon and Harriet Kelley have paintings, lithographs, watercolors, and other artful objects from such famous artists as Aaron Douglas (The father of the Harlem Renaissance), Henry O. Tanner, Jacob Lawrence, Elizabeth Catlett, Ron Adams, Benny Andrews, Romare Bearden, Charles White, John Biggers, Eldzier Cortor, Margaret Burroughs, Allen Freelon, Raymond Seth, Paul Keene, Horace Pippin, Dox Thrash, and Samuel J. Brown, Thornton Dial, Allyson Saar, Whitfield Lovell, Sam Middleton, Dean Mitchell, Ike Morgan. and many others. In 1995, Harriet Kelley’s collection became the first private collection of African American art ever exhibited by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The Kelley family is indeed one of our treasures for making the hidden history of Black culture available to the world.
According to The Harmon and Harriet Kelley Collection of African American Art Exhibition, in a book published by the San Antonio Museum of Art (1994), “African American art is reaching a wider audience . . . . Inspired by the exhibit Hidden Heritage: Afro-American Art, 1800-1950, Harmon and Harriet Kelley began collecting African American art in 1987 and amassed . . . a broad range of . . . artists.”
In a cover story in San Antonio Women, the cover picture featured Harriet Kelley with an article titled, Nurturing Art and Family: A life dedicated to creating one of the country’s premier African American art collections, by Dawn Robinette, which explains, “The collection includes examples from all art media . . . . It has been featured at the San Antonio Museum of Art and the McNay Art Museum and in traveling exhibitions . . . . San Antonio artists are also included, giving them exposure far beyond the Alamo City.” In 1995, the exhibition of the Kelley collections made the New York Times Art section of the paper and noted that in quoting David Driskell, a professor of art history at the University of Maryland, “The collection is one of the finest that has been assembled, tracing the history of African-American art.”
What an accomplishment for the pride of San Antonio in the field of art. For many years, our history has been ignored by a society that sought to explain its history by excluding people of color. It has always been a white supremacist view of the history of this country. By exposing the artwork of African American artists the myth of white supremacy is being dismantled.
The Kelley family educated themselves about art by studying art books, attending art lectures, and setting up a rich library of artwork books and contacts with professional collectors and art consultants. To get more training, Mrs. Kelley became a docent at the San Antonio Museum of Art. They did not forget other local talents such as that of Anthony Edwards, who provided works of himself in the exhibit shows. Edwards provided me with much of the insight into the importance of Harmon and Harriet Kelley to the history of San Antonio and the history of Black art.
We must honor those that have given so much of their lives to preserving the history of Black America. This is also being done at a local art gallery called “Eye of the Beholder Art Gallery and Studio” located at 1917 N. New Braunfels Ave. Maria A. Williams, the owner opened her doors in September of last year and has helped to spread the words and inspirations of the Kelley family in their passion to honor and extoll local Black artists.
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