New gallery gives local African American artists a place to call home

May be the first of its kind in San Antonio

A new gallery features the work of African American artists, possibly the first public space like this in San Antonio.

SAN ANTONIO – If you take one look around the city, you’ll realize that San Antonio is home to a growing and thriving art scene.

But as far as art lover Maria Williams is concerned, there has been one big piece of the city’s mosaic of paintings and murals that has been missing.

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“I realized none of (the artists) looked like me, yet I knew artists and I knew a lot of black artists here in San Antonio,” she said. “They needed a place to show their work and be proud.”

Gallery owner Maria Williams gives visitors a tour of the gallery and history of the artwork. (KSAT 12 News)

Williams, who also is African American, said art by local African Americans noticeably has been overlooked and excluded from museums and galleries in San Antonio, so she decided to do something about it.

In 2019, she launched the Art of Four Initiative, in which she worked with four artists on gaining opportunities and exposure for their work.

Now, that group has increased four-fold, and what Williams hopes will be increased exposure has come in the form of a new gallery she opened this month called “In the Eye of the Beholder.”

Located on N. New Braunfels Avenue just steps from the Ft. Sam Houston gate, the storefront space offers a welcoming atmosphere full of colorful canvases.

The gallery, which is open to the public, also features studio space in which artists can work.

“Black artists are not just graffiti artists,” Williams said. “They are fine art artists and they are very diverse.”

Diversifying is what painter Akaimi Davis had to do after an unexpected illness.

The Texas State University grad had plans to work as a graphic designer.

The space, located near Ft. Sam Houston, doubles as a gallery and art studio. (KSAT 12 News)

However, in the middle of her health crisis, she picked up a paintbrush and created a whole new life for herself.

Her abstract style of painting has been labeled by others as African folk art.

“The concepts behind my work go so much deeper than being just a pretty picture,” she explained.

Davis says she is overjoyed to have a space where her work can be seen by others, although she also sees the gallery as a source of collective pride. “That’s why we’re here, not just for our own selfish purposes but to serve our community,” she said. “I think it’s an amazing opportunity.”

Ronney Stevens, who also has several pieces on display at the gallery, couldn’t agree more about the need for this type of artistic expression.

Artist Ronney Stevens works on a commissioned piece, although he is known for his jazz-inspired drawings. (KSAT 12 News)

Raised in San Antonio, he later spent decades living in Los Angeles and making a name for himself with his jazz-inspired pastel drawings and more.

“When I came back to San Antonio, that was my first question, ‘Where are the African American artists?,” Stevens said. “We just want an opportunity to beautify our area as we see other areas.”

Working with Williams, Stevens says he also plans to organize a group of artists who will take their talents to the streets and paint murals throughout the city.

In the Eye of the Beholder Art Gallery and Studio is located at 1917 N. New Braunfels Avenue.

It is free and open to the public Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays from noon to 7 p.m.

For more information, call (210) 600-4141.

About the Authors:

Katrina Webber joined KSAT 12 in December 2009. She reports for Good Morning San Antonio. Katrina was born and raised in Queens, NY, but after living in Gulf Coast states for the past decade, she feels right at home in Texas. It's not unusual to find her singing karaoke or leading a song with her church choir when she's not on-air.

Tim has been a photojournalist and video editor at KSAT since 1998. He came to San Antonio from Lubbock, where he worked in TV and earned his bachelor's degree in Electronic Media and Communication from Texas Tech University. Tim has won a handful of awards and has earned a master's in Strategic Communication and Innovation from Tech as well.