You Give Those Docents Hell, Alston!

Today, as part of Fiesta, the San Antonio Museum of Art had a family event which celebrated the city's patron saint, San Antonio de Padua.  That's why we screened the Dia de los Locos documentary we made last summer.  The Locos parade in San Miguel de Allende that me, Deborah, and Ramon documented exists as a thanksgiving to that city's patron saint, also San Antonio de Padua.  Deborah helped arrange the screening.  But sadly she was busy today and wasn't able to make it out.  But Ramon was there, giving an impromptu lecture for both of the screenings.

"Locos" doc viewed from projection booth at SAMA
“Locos” doc viewed from projection booth at SAMA

I was up in the projection booth, operating the equipment.  The attendance could have been better, but it went off well.  No technical surprises.  And Ramon's a charming and effective off-the-cuff public speaker.

For the first screening Alston showed up.  She brazenly brought in a brown bag lunch, flagrantly ignoring the proscription against food and drink posted on the door into the auditorium.  Well done, Alston — you're my hero.  You give those docents hell!

For the second screening, Carlos entered just as I was dropping the house lights.

Out in the main hall, Los Inocentes were singing ballads and corridos.  There were tables set up for various crafts for the kids.  And somewhere in the museum a scavenger hunt was going on.

After the event, I went for a late lunch with Carlos at Pepe's Cafe.  He pitched for me a trilogy of short films that sound pretty funny.

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The other week a major cultural event went down here in san Antonio.  April 13th was the opening of, well, this museum downtown.  I guess they kind of screwed up with the last decade of hype. Trying to please too many people has given it too many names.  Let me try to make sense of their website.

It's called the “Alameda.”  Okay?  So, it's in the old Alameda Movie Theater?  Um, no.  It's pretty close, but ….  Oh, here we go.  “The Alameda National Center for Latino Arts and Culture.”  Right?  But — dammit! — lower on the page I read: “The Museo Alameda.”  But, wait, because this museum is an affiliate with the Smithsonian, I see they're also referring to it as “The Smithsonian in San Antonio.”

What jackasses are running PR on this thing which is potentially one of the most important cultural centers to hit this city in over a decade?  I guess it's too late to fire them.

Here's a quote from the website.

“In 1997, The Alameda National Center for Latino Arts and Culture became the first organization in the United States to sign an affiliation agreement with The Smithsonian Institution. President Bush, then Governor Bush, designated The Museo Alameda as the Official Texas State Latino Museum.”

Oh, that clears up everything.  It's the “Official Texas State Latino Museum.”

Um, I don't think that's it ….

Who writes this shit?

I'll keep calling it the Smithsonian Annex until I see some letterhead.

But the fact is, other than the local media parroting press releases, there really was no buzz.  I know a lot of people in this town affiliated with museums, galleries, latino cultural centers.  They don't talk about this place.  All the painters, sculptors, architects, and filmmakers I know in San Antonio barely are cognizant of this place.  And were it not that I've been currently working with George Cisneros, and the fact that he was commissioned to create a large installation project for the museum, I'd not have known when the place opened.  True, I don't read the paper every day, but I pick it up fairly often.  The point is, this should be a big word-of-mouth thing within the local art community. The only other person I know who was involved in the museum, is my friend Alejandro (AKA Alex).  He assisted artist Franco Mondini-Ruiz who designed the museum's gift shop, which was also something of an installation piece.

Earlier this night I got a call from Alex.  He told me I needed to read Edward Rothstein's piece on the museum published recently in the New York Times.  While I listened to Alex talk trash about the museum, I got online and looked up the review.  Pretty savage.  Rothstein had little positive to say about the museo, with the exception of the gift shop.  “That says a lot,” Alex paused thoughtfully in his rant.  “I mean, who reviews a fucking gift shop?  They've got Laura Bush's purse on display and some shit belonging to Ladybird Johnson.  What the fuck have those women done for my people?  Maybe if they had the purse open so you could see a box of condoms and a crackpipe to make some kind of statement.  Hey, can I call you back?  I've got a call coming in.”  And thus ended another adrenaline-driven rant that periodically comes in over my phone line.

I blanch at the 8 dollar admission fee, but I feel I should visit the museum just to see if it really is that lame.  It certainly doesn't sound like it's serving the community, beyond the rich locals who like to think that they're doing good work bringing us their watered-down notion of art and culture.

Oh, and here's a nifty quote from a puff piece on the museum that appeared in the LA Times.

“Locals have nicknamed the museum MAS — Museo Alameda Smithsonian — Spanish for more.”

Yet another name.  And I'd like to know what “locals” are saying this.  I want attribution.  Probably some pinche gabachos holding forth expansively over a bottle of Chardonnay in the bar of the Menger Hotel.

I've heard, in passing, the vague buzz about a fistfight at the Museo on the VIP opening night.  This really doesn't interest me.  Uppercrust assholes and their drunken misbehavior is rather tiresome.  This level of entitlement is the ugly side of American culture.  But as I'm sitting here writing this out, I thought I'd see what it was that went down.  A simple Google search with the key words Museo, Alameda, and Fight brought up a few selections.  This turned out quite fortuitous.  I discovered the website of Barbara Renaud Gonzalez.  Her blog is called Las True Stories from San Antonio.  She's a very good writer, and I immediately put her blog into my online aggregator so I can keep up with her work.

I'm reminded of one of the things Alex told me tonight.  When he was a kid and he used to go to the Teatro Alameda (back when it was a movie house screening spanish language films).  He and he friends called it the Alamierda.  Somebody better get his or her, um, shit together, or the people who brought this Museo Alameda to town will find that it has yet another name.

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