San Antonio Sabbatical

A Day of Art

Posted on: December 1, 2010

As I mentioned in a previous post, I enjoy art but I’m better at observing it than creating it.  However, that could change in the future.  I’m looking forward to the graphic design class that I am scheduled to take next semester.  But, today, I spent several hours in two wonderful San Antonio museums.  Is there such a thing as art overload?

This morning at 10:30 I arrived at the gorgeous (drool!) and historic Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum, the first museum of modern art in Texas.  I didn’t leave until 3½ hours later.  The McNay Art Museum is set on well-manicured grounds in the Alamo Heights section of San Antonio.  Prices are reasonable — $8.00 for adults; $5.00 for students; and an extra $5.00 fee for their current exhibit, “Landscapes from the Age of Impressionism”  (through January 16, 2011).  I was warmly greeted at the door and given a brief summary of the collections along with a Visitor Guide (map).  I stopped at the featured exhibit first and admired paintings by many artists, including those of Claude Monet, one of my favorites.  Then, I wandered through the rest of the house/museum (both levels) — including the large picturesque patio — in a happy frame of mind engulfed by decorative and peaceful surroundings.  While upstairs in the Orientation Gallery, I watched a short film about the life of Marion Koogler McNay and the founding of the McNay Art Museum.  Viewing all of this great artwork made me feel inspired (and gave me some ideas of things to try with my own art next semester).  Visiting museums is like being transported to another world (art museums are my favorite, followed by science museums, and lastly, history museums).  Art is a very powerful tool of expression and I like seeing the innovative — and sometimes crazy — works that artists produce.  As a somewhat creative person myself, I can certainly appreciate the time, talent, and technique that are required.  I spent the last ½-hour at the McNay Art Museum in its unique gift shop with a variety of cute art-inspired items for sale.  Of course, I had to buy a few small things.

So, after leaving the McNay Art Museum at 2:00 p.m., I got lost on the way to the Italian restaurant that I wanted to try for lunch, and arrived there around 3:00 p.m.  Piatti Ristorante & Bar (not far from the McNay Art Museum and right by Quarry Market) has a mouthwatering website and great reviews, so it made my to-do list.  By the time I got there the lunch crowd was gone so it was quiet (which I like).  I chose to sit inside in a booth — there are tables out on the patio too — and received prompt and polite service.  I ordered Bruschetta (Vine Ripened Tomato Crudo, Blue-Bonnet Farm Basil Pesto, Garlic & Grilled Sourdough Bread) and Ravioli Alla Zucca (House-Made Butternut Squash Ravioli, Brown Butter Sage Sauce) — this is usually offered as a special selection at certain times, but they were kind enough to make it for me since I saw it listed on their website and asked, and Iced Tea.  While waiting for my meal, I ate a couple of slices of bread dipped in their delicious oil mix.  My lunch arrived rather quickly and it too was tasty.  I loved the Bruschetta; it was flavorful and full of tomatoes.  The Ravioli was good too, but the flavor combination (especially the sauce) was new to me so it takes time to get used to.  As usual, I ended up taking home leftovers.  Piatti is a restaurant that I would highly recommend to others.

The final stop was to The Museo Alameda in the Market Square area of downtown San Antonio.  I arrived there at 4:15 p.m.  Be aware that no parking is available at the museum, but there are parking spots on the street (I was lucky to find the one remaining free spot nearby — $1.50 per hour; I paid for two hours since the museum closes at 6:00 p.m.) and there are parking lots/garages downtown from which you can take a bus.  The Museo Alameda is the nation’s largest Latino museum and the first formal affiliate of the Smithsonian outside of Washington, D.C.  This museum is housed in an attractive pink corner building with an artsy metal cut-out design exterior that hints at the creative and cultural pieces inside.  The Museo Alameda is inexpensive ($4.00 for adults; $2.00 for students).  The current exhibition (through July 15, 2011) is “Revolution & Renaissance: Mexico & San Antonio 1910-2010”.  The collection represents a variety of styles and artistic media and the items are attractively displayed on both gallery levels.  Once again, it felt good to be in the presence of so much art.  As the exhibition title suggests, the artwork contains some troubling images (e.g., war) as well as peaceful ones.  I’m glad I finally got to visit The Museo Alameda.  It was on my to-do list for a while, but the current exhibit just opened less than two weeks ago.  The more I see of San Antonio and learn of its history and culture, the more impressed I am by the contributions of many groups, especially Latinos.  Since my sabbatical project involves learning more about Latino history and culture, this Museo Alameda visit was a perfect fit.  I hope you’ll add it to your travel itinerary.

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