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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.