The birth of a community-based mural movement: the story of San Anto Cultural Arts




Alvarez, Bianca Alexandra

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This thesis seeks to establish the historical precedent from which San Anto Cultural Arts (SACA) emerges as the primary contributor to community murals in San Antonio, Texas. Upon being granted non-profit status in 1997, SACA has sponsored over fifty murals painted on the walls of businesses, schools, and other buildings specifically located on the West Side of San Antonio. The imagery of the murals stems from a long history of cultural production from the early twentieth century known as the Mexican Mural Renaissance to the Chicano movement initiated in the 1960s -with the intention of stimulating cultural pride and identity within the community. By defining how SACA murals specifically respond to the area's complex cultural history, and sociopolitical and economic environment, this thesis locates the wall paintings within muralism's shared Mexican/North American/Chicano cultural tradition. Being that the proliferation of mural paintings resides on the West Side, this thesis seeks answers to questions regarding their location. The first chapter examines the relationship between the United States and Mexico in relation to settlement patterns of Mexican American communities, like that of the West Side. This chapter will provide insight as to why the murals are located in this area. The second chapter utilizes art historical methodology in order to define SACA's place in relation to its precedents, the Mexican Mural Movement and El movimiento. Chapter Three reviews the mural process that SACA employs. Interviews with SACA's former Mural Program and Public Arts Manager, Cecilia Santos, SACA's former lead muralist Ruth Buentello, SACA's current Interim Director Adriana Garcia provide tremendous insight to the social and community aspects that aid in the success and positive reception of the murals within their community. SACA's murals were not created in a vacuum. Changes in immigration laws brought hundreds of thousands of people from Latin America, many from Mexico, into the United States. They brought with them their tradition of monumental public art, and in particular the history of the Mexican revolutionary muralists. Murals had always been a part of the Mexican community, so when the contemporary mural movement began, San Antonio's West Side was ready, with centuries of tradition in place. Also, this thesis will explore the many points of connectivity to the past that propelled SACA's status as the primary source of mural production in San Antonio. As a means of achieving the former, this thesis will primarily focus on the mural Educación (1999) by SACA's tres--Manny Castillo, Juan Ramos, and Cruz Ortiz--whom without their artistic vision and tremendous dedication to their community (el barrio), the murals may not have been painted. Analysis of additional murals including Lideres de la comunidad (2006) and End Barrio Warfare (1998) will present evidence of content that is specific to San Antonio history and contemporary experience, supporting my thesis that San Antonio muralism is grounded in the area's bicultural experience and sociopolitical and economic environment.


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Community-Based Murals, Cultural Production, Muralism, San Anto Cultural Arts, San Antonio, Texas Murals



Art and Art History