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Arts & Culture

Life in the studios at South Flores and Lone Star

Photo: Photos by Scott Andrews, License: N/A

Photos by Scott Andrews

Andy Benavides at home in his 1906 building

Photo: , License: N/A

Joe Lopez at Gallista Gallery on South Flores

Founded almost 20 years ago when artists Andy Benavides and Alberto Mijangos bought an old, dilapidated building at 1906 South Flores, just south of what we now call Southtown, the art district that has grown around the original creative outpost has ebbed and flowed over the years. But as talk of dissatisfaction over the increasing gentrification of the Blue Star Arts Complex and the commercialization of First Friday — now focused on the bar scene — grows louder, interest in the collection of artist-run spaces is rising.

A micro-distillery, Dorćol Distilling Company, first attracted to the area by the crowds during Second Saturday last fall, is now finishing off new construction on East Lachapelle Street; owner-distillers Chris Mobley and Boyan Kalušević say they hope to start production in the next few months. This March, the City’s Department of Planning & Community Development published a master plan for the Lone Star Community within which the art district is located, with ambitions to develop the neighborhood into an arts and entertainment district.

Expectations for the area, variously referred to as the South Flores or Lone Star Art District, are high at the moment, and each Second Saturday presents a host of art options. The 1906 building contains five art galleries; Bill FitzGibbons’ sculpture studio at 107 Lone Star becomes a pop-up gallery run by the Lullwood Group, an artist collective, and across the street, a bungalow named the Flop House opens its doors. On the west side of South Flores, Gallista Gallery, the second oldest art space in the area, and site of 10 artists’ studios, is at full capacity, and has added two galleries. Across the train tracks to the north on Lachapelle, Alex Rubio and Roland “Nightrocker” Fuentes stage a new art show every month at R Gallery. Adding to Second Saturday action, the SoFlo Market, a pop-up presenting handmade art and a farmers market, is open during daytime hours at 1344 South Flores prior to the night’s event.

Born and raised in San Antonio, Benavides says it all began when he teamed up with fellow artist Mijangos, who then had his studio at 1906 South Flores, to buy the building. Benavides’ frame shop, now in the 1906 building where he lives with his wife Yvette and son Augusto, was located on South Alamo for several years during the 1990s.

During that time, Benavides, along with the owners of other art-focused businesses that once populated South Alamo Street, was instrumental in starting the First Friday art walk. But, he told the Current, as the King William neighborhood saw a surge of revitalization, rents went up. Mijangos discovered that there was an opportunity to purchase the 1906 building, and suggested the move to Benavides, who, as the owner of two businesses, had access to bank loans. “We signed the agreement, literally, with a handshake in the parking lot,”he said, “and decided that somehow, we’d get our checks in every month.”

Benavides recalled, “This was a very dilapidated property, all overgrown with trees, and a homeless guy, Felix. It was his home prior to ours.”

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