La Villita tenants move out, others stay put

Change in the wind for historic arts village

SAN ANTONIO – Known as one of San Antonio's first neighborhoods, change is in the wind for La Villita, a downtown landmark across from the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center and a short walk from the Alamo.

Made up mostly of small shops and galleries, the historic arts village is undergoing a controversial bidding process for its leasing rights.  

Current tenants said several of their more than 20 neighbors moved out rather than submit a proposal, while others are staying put for now.

But they said the city's Department of Culture and Creative Development has not provided them a timeline on the overall project or when to expect a response.

Alice Knight, a multimedia artist who closed her studio after 12 years, said she and other tenants went back and forth with the city trying to get answers.

"I finally realized some of these people are wearing white hats and some of them are wearing black hats," Knight said. "But as it turns out, they're all in the same posse."

Knight said she found the request for proposal process "insulting."

"To wait to find out if they think someone is better than me before they choose me again, at this point in my life, I couldn't take that," Knight said.  

Knight said fortunately she already has another gallery in the West Texas arts community of Terlingua.

Still, Knight said she worries about tenants who may not be selected to stay, asking themselves, "What do we do now?"

For the longtime owners of the Village Gallery, the decision was an emotional one.

"It's my dad's legacy," said Veronica Glass. "My dad is fighting cancer."

She said it would be impossible to walk away from the business that her parents founded as newlyweds more than 40 years ago.

Glass said although they filled out the city's 50-page application, "It hasn't explained why we're having to go through this whole process."

She said, "I think we have a right to know what their goals are and what they're looking for."

A spokeswoman for DCCD Director Felix Padron said he was out of the country so no one could respond to any questions, but he would be available next week.

Yet some visitors who've been coming to La Villita for years said they enjoy it the way it is.

"If they were to change something, I think they may be making a mistake," said Randy Glover, an artist in Fort Davis. "There's just a lot of energy here."

His wife, Kay Dawn, said, "Not everything needs to change. Some things are better left alone."