Local artists have turned a laundromat’s outside wall at West Southcross Boulevard and Zarzamora Street into a canvas highlighting South Side culture and heritage.
It’s the latest product from the San Antonio Street Art Initiative, which partnered with Community First Health Plans to create a mural outside E-Z Wash, 1519 W. Southcross.
The street-art initiative, which launched in 2018, has painted nearly 50 murals in San Antonio, working toward what the nonprofit collectively calls “the largest outdoor gallery in Texas.”
“Public art is so important in the community and it’s an honor to be part of this project,” said muralist Eva Sanchez.
Titled “We Love Our Southside,” the colorful collage bears imagery and themes familiar to most San Antonians, particularly South Side inhabitants: a woman preparing a tortilla; the bells of Mission San Juan Capistrano; Mexican sweetbread; and an ice cream truck.
This (mural) is … going to be here for many years.”
— Theresa Scepanski,
Community First Health Plans
Even shades of Fiesta colors, which have recently reemerged in the San Antonio Spurs’ logo, are included here.
Participating artists and Community First representatives took part in a mural unveiling Dec. 21.
“We’re super proud to have this in our backyard,” said Shek Vega, SASAI founder and president, who was joined then by Sanchez and fellow muralists Joe De La Cruz and Nik Soupe; all of whom live or grew up on the South Side.
Vega noted the people, places and points of interest on the South Side are integral to San Antonio’s past, present and future.
“When you think of the South Side, you think of the historic missions and the (San Antonio River) Mission Reach and the commerce that happens on Southwest Military Drive,” he said.
He added, “But we often forget about the neighborhoods and the people that make the South Side so great. From the far West Side to the far East Side, it’s a big part of San Antonio and we’re happy to represent it in that way.”
“We Love Our Southside” is the first in a series of similar murals SASAI intends to create, in the coming months, across the area.
Burgundy Woods, an SASAI board member known in the local fashion industry, said the organization surveyed 40 South Side business owners, civic leaders and other influencers and asked what makes them most proud about their community.
“They were able to give us a massive list of these amazing things that they love about their whole neighborhood,” Woods said. “That list is how we designed this mural.”
Vega picked a few images for the first creation. Other depictions and themes suggested by the focus group will be incorporated in upcoming SASAI artwork, Woods said.
De La Cruz said each artist was responsible for a specific mural piece, which he added, “came together as a puzzle.”
“It was nice to see the community response while we were working out here. A lot of positive things were said,” De La Cruz added of passersby.
Sanchez said she loves how the mural is created and “owned” by South Side residents.
De La Cruz and Sanchez appreciated SASAI’s commitment to use local talent for the public displays, which they added is key to strengthening San Antonio’s visual-arts scene.
The former also said he’s excited as more painters join future endeavors.
“We have a lot of spaces on the streets here on the South Side. As an artist, I’m just looking forward to seeing more artists’ response and community response to maintain pride in the South Side,” he added.
Woods and the participating artists also thanked Community First, noting support from the nonprofit health-maintenance organization was especially significant given the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the arts community.
A native South Sider, Community First President/CEO Theresa Scepanski said her business is always exploring ways to “enhance the culture of our community.”
Adding, when it comes to public-health discussions, art could play an instrumental role in healing.
“We’ve invested, over the course of the last few years, in many events and many different projects related to art, and this (mural) is definitely going to be here for many years to come and really signify the culture, community and unity here on the South Side,” she said.
Artists interested in SASAI may visit www.sanantoniostreetart.org for details.