On March 24, about a dozen of your neighbors enjoyed a free Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum tour offered to KWA members only.  We were greeted enthusiastically by Development Manager Elaine Leahy.  After a nice aperitif of wine, beer and other refreshing beverages, Elaine led us through the exhibit Back from Berlin, featuring works from local artists Ricky Armendariz, Cathy Cunningham-Little, Karen Mahaffy and Vincent Valdez.  These four are the first to participate in the Blue Star’s Berlin Residency Program.  Blue Star is the sole U.S. partner of the renowned Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin – and the only American artists participating each year in this prestigious program are Bexar County artists!  

I’ve seen a pair of new silhouettes in the sky above my pecan trees lately, two hawks who’ve found a new hunting ground.  One is larger than the other, if not a mature and immature male, they could be a mated pair.  In the world of hawkdom the females are larger than the males.  They are probably red tail hawks, the most common in the U.S., and distributed coast to coast. There are several subspecies but they all have very similar looks.  My Tennessee grandmother would have called them by their more familiar name, chicken hawks. 

Joe and Mary Helen Mansbach have volunteered for the KW Fair for over two decades. They have worked Kid’s Kingdom, the parade and currently (for the past nine years) co-chaired Compliance. Compliance ensures that booths are set up correctly. On Fair Day, the Mansbachs jump in where needed, quietly and efficiently getting tasks done to help ensure the Fair operates smoothly. Their volunteer efforts don’t stop there. Over the years the Mansbachs have labeled newsletters, attended Basura Bash, organized graffiti wipe out events plus hosted many National Night Out events on Mission Street to get neighbors to meet each other. Behind the scenes, they assist with the setup and cleanup for our socials, always willing to pitch in a helping hand.

During the 2012 budget process, the KWA finance committee recommended budgeting an additional $25,000 for sidewalks with the intent that the new Executive Director (ED) would work with the City to get new sidewalks on one complete block. The KWA Board approved the sidewalk budget and asked the ED to accomplish this task.

The ED obtained two sidewalk inventories, one form the City Public Works Department and one from the MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization). The inventories classified sidewalk conditions. KWA Sidewalk Program Chair Fred Pfieffer, and his wife Maria, personally walked all the sidewalks categorized as “not present, impassable and limited damage,” and prioritized five locations spread throughout the KWA’s boundaries. In the interim, the ED began conversations with Councilman Bernal explaining that KWA wanted to team with the City to get a complete block of sidewalks repaired. Bernal was interested in our concept, and in finding a way to have the City use smaller contractors to reduce City construction cost while boosting employment opportunities for small businesses.

Since its founding in 2008, Blue Star’s MOSAIC program has helped develop high school students from across San Antonio into professional artists. The students commit to a year-round program, with some of them working in the MOSAIC studio after school and during the summers every day for multiple years. Led by renowned mentor Alex Rubio, the artist-students build their studio skills as they build portfolios for college applications, participate in gallery exhibitions, mentor younger students, and network with patrons and art collectors. The low student to teacher ratio ensures an intensive, focused arts education. Thanks to the support of our community partners, MOSAIC remains an entirely free resource for the students.

The calendar seems to have lost its moorings and drifted into spring at mid-winter. The paperwhites peeking out between the pickets of the front fence appear to be looking for an all-clear signal to lead the revival of the cold-induced brown landscape.

The breeze is stirring the faded fall leaves that are still captive to the lashings of the jasmine beds, but their jade color is deepening in to a richer shade. It will be a month of tangled hair and flipped lapels but the feel of it is wonderful, like a caress.

The downtown grocery store public improvements are almost complete. Phase II traffic signal installations have been completed at Arsenal and Flores; Flores and Whitely; Cesar Chavez and Flores; and Cesar Chavez and Dwyer. There has been a change to the original scope of work for this phase. The signal and the pedestrian crossing at S. Main Ave. and Cesar Chavez will remain for safety reasons, since H-E-B owns additional parking on the northeastern portion of the intersection of S. Main and Cesar Chavez.

The weather was predicted to be damp and drab but we woke to beautiful temperatures and a bright, sunny sky. What a grand day for a tour! We had such a good time showing our homes and the neighborhood to all those who came. I love the look of people as they enter our homes heads tilted back, eyes all curious about what they are going to see and their rapt interest in the information being conveyed by the docent. But my favorite view was Nico, age 12, at the front door of my house being co-docent with his grandmother Erin Strauss - a perfect picture of what our neighborhood strives to be.

Students Together Achieving Revitalization (STAR) is a program organized in the City’s Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) in partnership with the University of Texas at San Antonio. Graduate and undergraduate architecture and construction students from UTSA and San Antonio College learn from local contractors how to repair windows and screens, replace rotted wood of siding and porches and do exterior painting. This is a free service provided to property owners chosen by an application process.

I was rummaging in my massively disorganized bookcases and a battered sketchbook fell out, and opened, on the floor. It was the sketchbook I carried as a 21 year old art history student at the University of Siena. The page was dated February 22, the day of Carnevale, the Italian answer to Mardi Gras. On that long-ago night I was at the art student’s ball at the Palazzo Chigi-Saracini, the seat of Siena’s famous music school. I’d been trying to catch the eye of a reddish-blonde with almond shaped green eyes, to little avail. Most of the crowd was in the Palazzo’s grand ballroom, a rococo confection of crème and gilt plaster swirls and mirrored doors catching the flickering light of its enormous chandeliers. In the courtyard just outside was a clock on a tall platform, about to play its part in the evening’s ritual of turning its hands back from midnight to postpone the arrival of the first day of Lent.

What a noisy neighborhood we live in. Some are noises over which we have no control: trains, helicopters, police and fire sirens, the flour mill and protective dogs. Other noises are those produced by residents and the people they employ. Foremost in this category: the new habit of locating TVs and stereo speakers outdoors (sans neighborly consideration) and the use of the loudest leaf blowers of modern manufacturing.

With the SA2020 initiative, the City has set a goal to add 7,500 new residential units downtown. Already built are Cevallos Lofts and 1010 S. Flores. Currently under construction are the Elan Riverwalk apartments and the Big Tex apartments, both which have 350 units. In the planning stages are a 150-unit apartment complex located on “the slab” next to La Tuna Restaurant and a project on Cedar Street with 12 units and 5 units.

You may have seen someone lurking in the neighborhood in the late evening or early morning carrying long wire cages draped with towels. It’s a volunteer from The Cannoli Fund! The nonprofit recently received a grant from the KWA to support the Community Cat Carpool, a program that assists residents in trapping and transporting cats to low-cost clinics to be fixed and vaccinated. The practice of TNR (trap-neuter-return) is widely agreed to be the most humane and effective way to control and assure the health of stray or feral cat populations (now often called community cats).

I’ve lived in Great Britain twice in my life (thus far) and both times enjoyed that nation’s high threshold for eccentricity. One of my favorite (or is that favourite?) oddities there is the Cloud Appreciation Society. Any nation that spends time gazing at, and appreciating clouds, is tops in my book. You can become a member for about eight pounds and become a certified daydreamer (with a certificate to prove it).

Those who appreciate clouds also appreciate the International Cloud Atlas, not to be confused with the labyrinthine novel and film of the same name. This Atlas really is a handbook for sorting out genus and species of airborne vapor. The Atlas was first published in 1896 during the infancy of meteorology, as a way of establishing some basis for common description of cloud formations, and as a means of supporting early attempts at forecasting. It was a handsome document full of very early color photographs. A contemporary English meteorologist, Ralph Abercrombie, had observed that cloud formations seemed to be similar all over the earth, and why not? Clouds aren’t impounded by borders.

The old Alamo Methodist Church/Casbeers has a new owner, Greg Porter. He will be leasing the property to Frank Restaurant. Frank is located in Austin. One of the owners will be moving to the King William neighborhood to start this second location.

Issac Maxwell’s building on S. Alamo was purchased by neighbors Stacy Hill and Erick Slather. They are currently restoring the building and considering their options for its future use. Erick said he is especially looking for ways to provide parking for their new venture.

You may have noticed the kayaks on the river near SARA. Texas Pack & Paddle have permits to operate their business on the river.

Also coming to the river are paddleboard yoga classes on Sunday mornings, provided by Aerial Yoga SA. They currently do not have their own studio space for regular yoga classes, but are looking along S. Flores Street.

- Cherise Bell

I came home and discovered that some vanished delivery man had left a package on my front porch, and nearly pulled my front gate off its hinges in the process. I love the orderly rank of pickets on my fence rails and their continued march across the gate. The notable sag produced by the separation at the top hinge made it look like a boxer who’d staggered back to his corner to recover from a decisive blow.

While I was screwing the hinge back in place a little breeze picked up – not quite a foretaste of fall, but enough of a reminder that Halloween is almost at hand. Looking at the gate I was reminded of the one-night-only sanctioned hooliganism that used to prevail in late 19th and early 20th century cities and towns on the night before Halloween.

On Friday, October 3, SAY Sí and UTSA will present “SERIE, a Serie Project Retrospective,” an exhibition of 100+ Serie Project artworks never before displayed from the private collection of Drs. Ricardo and Harriett Romo.
The Serie Project, which started in 1993 by the late artist and teacher Sam Coronado, allows underrepresented artists to benefit from collaboration and learn the “serigraphy” technique. In the last two decades the organization has fostered over 250 artists from different professional levels and ethnic backgrounds. Similarly, SAY Sí, San Antonio’s premier youth arts organization, acts as an incubator for emerging middle and high school artists.

Joe Huntington moved to the St. Benedict Lofts in April 2012 from Las Vegas, Nevada, and recently bought a house on Sweet Street. He has been a KWA member since 2012. KWA director, Cherise Bell, met with Joe to get his perspective on being a new historic property owner.

Q. You recently bought a house on Sweet Street, which is the KWA boundaries, but outside the historic district. What motivated you to designate your house as an individual landmark?

A. I knew I had to act right away when this house came up for sale. My reason for buying such an old house was because I’ve never owned an old house before. I’ve always owned newer homes. I think I was looking for a challenge and to test my creativity. The main reason why I choose to designate my house as a landmark was to become part of the historical community that makes up Southtown. It’s a sense of pride knowing you own something of historic significance. 

The seasonal rhythms of life in the Gulf States have more to do with the rotation of the calendar than with a change of temperature. The almost uniquely American ritual of students returning to classes after a three month parole from educational incarceration is largely disassociated from any signs of change from summer. I know that I’ll soon see high school students trooping past my house the few blocks south to the local high school. They’ll have the look of a defeated army marching to interment, heads down, dragging their feet, shouldering backpacks big enough to carry supplies for a long bivouac.

This is our final dog walk on the Riverwalk. From the footbridge at Eagleland we walk on the north east side of the river. The opposite bank is undeveloped and this encourages wildlife to thrive. Your human will enjoy watching the birds along here.

The Eagleland footbridge is a new feature. Installed about three years ago, it allows foot and bicycle traffic across the river at the southern end of the neighborhood and connects us to the Mission Trails Hike & Bike. There is a landscaped plaza at the end of the bridge with a baggie dispenser and a bench for your human. This plaza is not very shady yet, the trees have just been planted.

Girls Incorporated® of San Antonio Mentors Valuing Peers (MVP) program members spent their summer giving back to the community by building and installing a series of Little Free Libraries as part of the Summer Team Up Challenge sponsored by Silver & Black Give Back. At Girls Inc. we believe that readers today become leaders tomorrow, and our Little Free Libraries help our girls spread a love of reading and lifelong passion for literacy in our community.