Artists transform convention center into unique, beautiful venue
It’s not just great facilities, authentic venues and the River Walk that inspire meeting professionals to book in San Antonio.
The city’s arts scene is a constant inspiration for delegates venturing to this iconic American city. Here, art and local artisans have helped cultivate a decidedly unique character that spans the city’s meeting and event venues.
For instance, the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, with more than 600,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space, three hotel-quality ballrooms and 63 breakout rooms, is much more than a place to meet. The center’s limestone walls form a canvas that helps tell the stories of San Antonio’s rich multi-cultural history.
Stories are told by a beautiful façade and grounds adorned with art niches, grottos and water features. Each nook is a window into the soul of the city, from mosaic cactus sculptures and brightly depicted murals of the San Antonio River, which runs through the convention center, to an iron sculpture of St. Anthony, for whom the city was named. Even the carpet is a work of art, weaving fibers and color into chapters that depict local geology, agriculture, cultures and heritage.
Beauty All Around
On Market Street, look up to see the mural “Confluence of Civilizations in the Americas” stretching across the top of the Convention Center, above the Lila Cockrell Theatre. The work, created by Juan O'Gorman for the 1968 HemisFair (World's Fair), symbolizes the progress made by the confluence of civilizations in the Western Hemisphere. Adam and Eve are in the middle; European civilization is depicted on the right, and indigenous meso-American civilization on the left.
Greeting visitors at the center’s south entrance, in HemisFair Park, is “Lone Star ‘Can’ delier,” made from 1,895 discarded aluminum cans and weighing 200 pounds. Native San Antonio artist Anita Valencia created the piece to honor the state symbol, the Lone Star, and make an environmental statement.
Take it to the Next Level
From there, go up to the next floor to see a gorgeous mural, outside Room 213, called “Autumn in West Texas.” The oil on canvas was painted in 1957 by the late Porfirio Salinas, a Texas native once described by Lyndon B. Johnson as “the best landscape painter in Texas.”
Outside Room 214, at the Tower View area, is “Color Harmony en la Esquina.” Gaspar Enriquez used an air-brushed polymer on aluminum to depict young people gathering at the corners of a neighborhood, where they acquire a sense of belonging and friendship that defies racial differences.
By Room 208 is an oil painting showing an urban landscape in San Antonio. Local artist Jacinto Guevara says: “There is something miraculous and mystical just about everywhere you look. You just have to be able to see it.”
Don’t miss more than a dozen statues by Texas sculptors of notable Texans in the corridor between rooms 207 and 208. From patriots Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston and Jose Antonio Navarro to Comanche statesmen Quanah Parker and President Lyndon B. Johnson, each has a story.
Art in the Park
While strolling the grounds, be sure to catch “Mustangs at Noon” on the outside east wall before lunch. This is a play on light where timing is everything. A series of five suspended sculptures use sunlight to cast shadows of life-sized mustangs that appear to be running. As the day progresses, the herd fades away only to return the next day to run again.
Wander over to the art nooks facing the Tower of the Americas and stop at the “Grotto de Pensamientos” for tranquility and discovery. Carlos A. Alves created the mosaic with handmade tiles and colored grout. In the work, an abstract landscape joins sky, land and water and depicts flora and fauna native to San Antonio and South-Central Texas.
The art nooks also include works by industrial artist Ries Niemi, who hand and machine bent stainless steel and welded them into three pieces called “I Remember Everything.” One is a stylized wing form, referring to local Air Force bases and the role flight played in the development of San Antonio. The largest piece is styled after the domed roof of nearby Municipal Auditorium. The third is a chimney-like tapering column reminiscent of the limestone chimneys of local cement factories.
This artful convention center offers a haven of inspiration alive with all that makes San Antonio exquisite. The art tells the stories of San Antonio and beckons delegates to become part of the narrative.
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