SAN ANTONIO – You can barely mention the word “mural” in San Antonio without also including the name of one local organization.
San Anto Cultural Arts has been involved in putting the colorful paintings on walls throughout the city for nearly 30 years.
To date, its artists have had a hand in 60 murals and counting.
“All of those murals are community driven which means we talk to community first before we put a mural up,” said Ben Tremillo, the non-profit’s executive director.
Tremillo says the group’s goal is to preserve the city’s culture and celebrate its people.
Many of the murals have their roots in Mexican and Mexican-American culture and history.
Although a lot of them adorn walls on the city’s West Side, San Anto’s artists also have painted murals from the far Northwest Side to the East Side and places in between.
“We want murals to reflect the neighborhoods in a positive way, and I think the best way to do that is to get input from community members,” Tremillo said.
Not only are residents allowed to contribute ideas, but, in many cases, they also are able to get their hands dirty.
They’re invited to pick up a brush and help the artists complete the paintings.
“This mural means a lot to me because I actually helped out on the original piece when I was younger and I lived up the street,” said Crystal Tamez, pointing to a mural in the 1300 block of S. Brazos.
Tamez, who, as a child, was part of a group of neighbors who helped with the painting, grew up to work for the organization.
She serves as San Anto’s mural preservation manager, working with the artists and property owners to keep the paintings looking their best.
“We have updated the paints. We now use stuff that has UV protection. We now clear coat it,” she said, describing the restoration process.
Some jobs call for smoothing out a few rough patches, both on the aging walls and among changing property owners who don’t always appreciate the significance of the artwork.
“My job is to preserve this and make sure someone doesn’t try to cover it up,” Tamez said. “Sometimes when you have new wall owners, they just go and cover it up.”
The murals, Tremillo said, often become a source of pride for people in the surrounding area.
“It really does beautify the neighborhoods and I know we get compliments all the time,” he said.
If all goes as planned, he hopes the good words and good work will continue for years to come.