Multi-phase city project integrates public art, nature and community
Standing beside San Pedro Creek on a cool, sunny day, you can’t help but think of the park’s slogan: “Flowing with Purpose.” San Pedro Creek Cultural Park is home to one of San Antonio’s historic treasures and has been established as a natural habitat since 1718. Today it is undergoing a four-phase construction plan to become a park world-class cultural linear where families can come to enjoy the natural beauty of the creek while learning about its culture and history. Walking along the first completed segment of Phase 1, colorful artwork by San Antonio artists can be seen all around. Whether it’s a mural, a ceramic, a tiled bench, or historic text and poetry, they help tell the story of San Pedro Creek and how it came to be. the green space it is today. The park also features artistic design features that help control flooding for the city and water quality for wildlife. It is located near the Alamo on the west end of downtown San Antonio, and when completed will serve a larger purpose that will not only impact the environment, but also the community and the city.
The San Pedro Creek Cultural Park project began in 2017 and is currently under construction. Only Phase 1, Segment 1 has been open to the public since 2018. On the San Pedro Creek website, they predict that once the park is fully built and open to the public, it will contribute to economic development by creating an economy of 1 .5 billion dollars. impact for the city. Through new commercial and residential development, flood control by containing a 100-year-old floodplain within the banks of the creek, and a change in water quality through the addition of biowales, the park will develop and will update its grounds to be more environmentally friendly. In addition to the expansion of the area, the water plantings, the removal of floating elements and the cultural connection that will be expressed through a series of interactive exhibitions, works of art and traditional performances, which aim to breathe new life into the space. This park would not have been possible without the cooperation of Bexar County, the City of San Antonio, the San Antonio River Authority, and other government agencies. One can’t help but wonder, “How do artwork or design features benefit this creek and this city today?” The answers can be found through the San Pedro Creek Flood Control Tunnel art installation and the “Bridges of Understanding” ceramics. They are great examples of how art can help the environment and be permanent representations of the region’s history.
The two main priorities of San Pedro Creek Cultural Park and the San Antonio River Authority are flood control and water quality. The goal is to improve flood safety and the environment by turning the creek into a public facility and cultural park. Carrie Brown, curator of public art at San Pedro Creek, said that while they planned aspects of flood mitigation, like planting aquatic plants to improve water quality, they also included artists. to design the park and create spaces for people to come and host events while enjoying the culture and history of the creek.
“We really wanted to uncover these stories, and one of the ways we do that is through artwork,” Brown said.
In Phase 1, Segment 1, San Pedro Park has a number of artworks that speak to the history of the area, the water flow of the creek, and the Alameda Theater, which was once a center flourishing culture and is currently undergoing its own revitalization. Their hopes are to bring these stories to light and reconnect the community to the park in various ways. One such way is to use the “Rain from the Skies” art design feature. This structure is a stainless steel panel that pumps water up and over the structure to help filter waste out of the water before it enters the tunnel below.
“Not only does it create a nice sound and a nice visual, but it also helps aerate the water,” Brown said. “So whenever we can do things like that, it’s actually helpful for the quality of the water itself.”
The artistic element comes to life at night when the structure is illuminated for visitors to view. With the partnership of Scobee Planetarium at San Antonio College, the structure features a depiction of what the night sky would have looked like on May 5, 1718, the date San Antonio was founded. The lights were installed behind the panels to create the starry night sky. It’s a great gathering place to admire and take photos, but more importantly, to learn some history and appreciate how the artistic structure helps the creek’s environment and wildlife.
“Bridges of Understanding” is a series of ceramics that honor the heritage of Santa Rosa Avenue, Martin Street and Travis Street Bridges. They were created by Diana Kersey, an artist who earned her master’s degree in ceramics from Washington State University and specializes in studio pottery, architectural ceramics, and public art installations. This project is his fifth public artwork in San Antonio. Kersey has completed projects such as the “Life Cycle of the Gulf Coast Toad” and “The Story of the Brackenridge Golf Course”. With her experience and qualifications, she was contacted by the architects of the San Pedro Creek project and Muñoz and Co. to carry out design improvements. Kersey did not act alone in the process of creating ceramics. She had help from Ali Wiesse, who was interning with her in the BFA program at the Southwest School of Art. This was Wiesse’s first project with Kersey and she is currently employed and working for Kersey Ceramics.
More importantly, the purpose of the art was to reflect and represent the historic nature of street names. Unlike other public art projects, “Bridges of Understanding” was done differently because it had to take inspiration from a historical report and use that as a point of reference. Each bridge that crosses the San Pedro stream had a different set of ceramics due to its own history.
“Like the Santa Rosa Bridge,” Kersey said. “This road leads to Santa Rosa Hospital, and we’ve done some work that addresses that.”
The Santa Rosa Bridge has ceramics of beautiful red roses surrounded by other vibrant colors. The second bridge, the Martin Street Bridge, originated from not having a clarified name. It was called many different names, such as North Third, then Hidalgo Street and Lakeview Street. Currently, it is called Martin St. in honor of Capt. Andrew Martin, who was a fighter in the Alamo. Her ceramics bear all the names she once bore, including her new name. Finally, Travis Street is the third bridge that is named after William Barret Travis, who was the commander of the Texas Army at Alamo. However, like St. Martin, he had been called a different name; Obraje St., in reference to the workshops and factories that inhabited the area years ago. The ceramics on the bridge represent the original name and William Travis. The Kersey Ceramics were dedicated on May 5, 2018, ironically the same month and day San Antonio was founded. She wanted the ceramic to show how the city of San Antonio has evolved and how it has changed over time. Kersey emphasized that she is still applying for projects and would apply if San Pedro Creek Cultural Park announces an opportunity. She even enjoyed working with Carrie Brown and would be really happy to work with her again. She is very humbled and honored to do public art in this community because she loves San Antonio.
“For an artist, it’s really special to create something that’s probably going to outlast you and become part of the integrated fabric of our city, [and] I appreciate when those opportunities arise,” Kersey said.
The next segment of phase 1 is currently under construction. Brown explained that there are two other large-scale projects, such as a mural and an interactive sculpture, which share the historical theme of bringing cultures together, people who have played a role in the development of the city and even of San Antonio’s musical history. They should be installed later this spring. The park curator also mentioned that there will be a launch to call three new artists later this month for future phases. They are looking for other opportunities in sculpture, design, and a poetry writer to add to the park. This will provide many opportunities for San Antonio and national artists. The goal of the park is to become a green space where architectural design, historic preservation and local art can be enjoyed. San Pedro Creek Cultural Park has a historical and cultural identity that will bring people together to see its beauty and significance for generations to come. For more information and current updates, you can check the park’s website or download their mobile app.