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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

He continuesd, “It’s funny, it’s been a very organic process... There never was any business plan, or model, to base what we were doing on. Just a day at a time, utilizing what we had for space.” His frame shop, Benavides Picture Framing, had a nice storefront and his design company had space to do projects. Mijangos had his studio, where he taught classes. “We built it a room at a time — now it’s a climate-controlled building. Back then, it wasn’t. Up until two years ago, we had a roof that was constantly in need of repair. It’s interesting — now I can reflect on 20 years, and identify the stepping-stones that led us here, and how it was meant to be. It’s crazy.”

After Mijangos passed away in 2007, Benavides purchased the rest of the building from Mijangos’ wife, Benavides relates, “In the interest of keeping his legacy alive, and keeping this an art compound.” Business continued, more or less, as usual.

Not all trends have been for growth. Once a source of employment for the neighborhood, the design shop downsized a few years ago. The One9Zero6 Gallery, for 16 years the hub of the complex, is now cluttered storage space, though Benavides has plans to revive it, possibly by year’s end. “We already have a model built,” he says. But 1906 isn’t just Benavides and family. On Second Saturday, five other studios open to the public.

* * *

Justin Parr and Ed Saavedra co-own Fl!ght Gallery, at 10 years old, the oldest art space in 1906. He first visited the complex when he was 11-years-old. Benavides remembers that Parr told him then, “Someday I’ll have an art show here.” When, at age 21, Parr exhibited at 1906 as their first off-site artist, Benavides recalls Parr telling him, “I was the kid who said I would have an art show here.”

Known for taking chances, Parr and Saavedra operate Fl!ght Gallery loosely, choosing artists rather than curating shows directly. One month, an artist may transform the space into an installation, followed the next month by a collection of photographs or paintings. On occasion, they turn over curation duties; Tommy Gregory, project coordinator at Houston Arts Alliance, has chosen artists for four shows, including one opening May 11. Parr and Saavedra are both established artists; Parr is known for his conceptual art-based photography and sumptuous glasswork, while Saavedra, who has exhibited internationally, focuses on paintings, and is preparing for an upcoming show in Detroit. Along with works by alumni of the gallery, Parr’s blown glass pieces can be purchased from a topsy-turvy collection that fills Fl!ght’s back room walls.

Gravelmouth, first runner-up in this year’s Current award for Best Gallery, is run by David “Shek” Vega at 1906, and is also the artist’s studio and home. Vega started off as a street artist, and though he now works primarily on canvas or commissioned walls, still imbues his work with urban grit. Many of the artists he presents do the same. “The street artwork, I tend to put that in the forefront, because for me, it was so hard to be taken seriously with that title and the bad taboo that goes along with it,” Vega told the Current. But some collectors are attracted to notoriety. “I would look through Andy’s frame shop and see a lot of work that was getting framed here in San Antonio was by LA artists, New York artists. [Collectors] were going somewhere else to look for this type of work, and bringing it back home here. I thought, ‘why isn’t it happening here?’” While he presented local artists in the beginning, Vega now exhibits work by out of town artists, too, such as Carlos Donjuan, a Dallas painter who received his MFA at University of Texas at San Antonio, recently featured in the pages of Juxtapoz magazine, the urban art bible. Though he lives and works at the 1906 building, spending so much time there that, says Vega, “I feel like a ghost sometimes, because I’m always haunting this building,” he still retains a day job working with his family at Tex Cap Wholesale. Located on the South Side, the firm sells, says Vega, “toys and novelties, all the light-up stuff at Fiesta.” It doesn’t hurt his cred. “Being a heavy part of street culture here in SA, from street vendors to street art,” Vega has a life that is “street everything, it seems.”

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