San Pedro Creek hosted the first Native American settlement more than 10,000 years ago as well as the first Spanish colonists three centuries ago. The creek flows from its springs in San Pedro Park through the center of the city and beyond. The cover art by Joe Lopez is one of several murals completed on the restored San Pedro Creek walkways to celebrate the significance of water, space, and people.
Artist Joe Lopez paints mostly in his studio but has completed several murals in the city including a mural on Mission Road across from Concepcion Mission. The mural celebrates Mexican American culture and is well known in San Antonio’s Southside. The Mission Road mural, as well as his San Pedro Creek mural, demonstrate Lopez’s commitment and passion to portraying the Mexican American experience in a positive light.
Joe Lopez grew up in Barrio Escondido next to the famous neighborhood, Cementville, where Mexican workers employed by the giant cement factory and their families lived. Lopez remembers Barrio Escondido as being all of two blocks. In the 1940s and 1950s when he was growing up there, his community had a rural feel to it.
As a child, Lopez loved to draw and his interest in art led him to study one summer with a professional artist at the Witte Museum. Lopez was so grateful for the opportunity that he volunteered to clean the studios after the students left.
After finishing high school, Lopez took art classes at La Villita School of Art and San Antonio School of Art. In the mid-1990s, he continued painting and earned extra money selling T-shirts and caps with his favorite phrase, “Puro Gallo,” which means, Pure Rooster in English. Lopez’s neighbors had roosters and as a young boy, he admired their spunk.
Lopez operated Gallista Gallery and art studios for nearly twenty years. The entrance to the Gallery had paintings and folk art by local artists. He maintained his own painting studio there and rented exhibition and studio space to many Latino artists. Over nearly two decades, Gallista Gallery hosted monthly art exhibitions, including the addition of altars during the Day of the Dead week.
Artists evolve and art evolves through time. Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, for example, one saw few murals in public places in San Antonio. During the late 1970s however, Chicano artists received commissions to paint murals in the Cassiano Homes and later at other public housing sites in the city. The city’s appreciation of art is due in part to those early public housing muralists and independent artists like Joe Lopez who made sure there would be plentiful art outside of the public and private museums.
Joe has returned to his family homestead and added a studio and gallery to the front of his house. Today he continues to paint, design logos, and occasionally work on mural proposals and projects. His commission to complete a mural for the San Pedro Creek restoration project led him to work with ceramic tile and photo-digital technology. As for his future plans, he only revealed: “It is great to be in the barrio where I grew up and I’m happy to be painting full time.”
About the Artwork
We are grateful for the San Antonio River Authority who commissioned this piece. You can support their efforts by visiting www.sara-tx.org .