Small nonprofit art galleries in San Antonio play an important role in promoting Latino art. The Centro Cultural Aztlan has served the Latino art community for forty-five years and recently added two new galleries to its Northwest side compound. Luminaria, known principally for its annual light shows, has found exhibit space adjacent to its St. Paul Square office for pop-art exhibits.

On June 14th, Centro Cultural Aztlan opened new exhibition spaces Galería Expresión I and Galería Expresión II with “Midsummer Solstice: A Celebration of Life, Balance, and Renewal” and “Project: MASA Cosmic Couture Portrait Collection.”

Luis Valderas, whose work is featured in the MASA exhibit, blends the past with the future in his conception designs. He incorporates Aztec and Mayan codices and futuristic space modeling in the same works. In 2005, he co-founded the Project MASA (Mechicano Alliance of Space Artists), a national collective of Latinx artists focusing on Chicanx science-fiction narratives. In many of his “space” exhibits over the past decade, Valderas and MASA artists have conceptualized new ideas and subjects focused on space, interplanetary travel, and encounters.

Blending early Indigenous imagery and contemporary cultures in Project MASA is an ambitious undertaking. In his artist statement, Valderas wrote: “I make work that is based on Meso-American mythology intermingled with science.” The MASA project director’s goal is to bring together Chicano and Latino artists from San Antonio and South Texas “who broadly engage speculative themes of outer space and the otherworldly, the modern and technological, the utopian and dystopian.”

With the approval of Centro Director Malena Gonzalez-Cid, Valderas has proclaimed Centro Cultural Aztlan “as a galactic outpost of Project MASA,” an ongoing exhibition featuring Chicanx and Latinx artists from San Antonio and South Texas. In his curation, Valderas seeks art that blends humor with sci-fiction to portray the future of Chicanos in space.

Luis Valderas, “Huitzilopochtli Nauhcampa on Rocket Veladora.” Courtesy of Centro Cultural Aztlan. Photo by Ricardo Romo.

The new exhibit space featuring Valderas’s work at the Centro includes a processing table where individuals seeking planetary adventures allied with cosmic humor can apply for a passport for space travel. A portrait of
Valderas’s mother Victoria Moctezuma Valderas represents the “Original Secretary of Space” and hangs adjacent to the “Passport Table.”

Attendees of prior iterations of this ongoing exhibit were invited to participate in “MASAporte Naturalization Stations” wearing an original cosmic outfit or space suits. The Cosmic Couture Portrait Collection features a series of portraits, or “MASAporte” photos, of attendees wearing cosmic outfits. Valderas created a rocket-like sculpture titled “Huitzilopochtli Nauhcampa on Rocket Veladora.”

Visitors to the Centro are also encouraged to view the Latino art displayed in the main Centro Gallery including new works by Mauro Murillo, “Zapata”; Oscar Galvan, “Compadres”; Martin Emmanuel Rangel, “Topo Chico”; Sergio Angel Ruiz, “Cruising Back Home”; Liliana Wilson, “Girl on a Boat”; and Raul Servin, “Juanito y Su Papa”.

The San Antonio-based nonprofit arts organization Luminaria opened a Pop-Up Exhibition titled “She Is / Ella Es” on June 7 at St. Paul Square. According to the press release, the show features “talented women and their stories of female presentations in a variety of textures, colors, and emotions.”

The concept of a pop-up art gallery is new to Luminaria and is centered on a short-term showcase. Yadhira Lozano, Luminaria Executive Director, explained that the exhibit curator Andrea V Rivas selected a group of women artists expected to have a lasting impact on the arts in San Antonio.

Andrea V Rivas grew up in San Antonio’s Southside. She was born in Texas, but her parents emigrated from Honduras in the early 1980s and all her extended family remained behind. Rivas missed family gatherings and dreamed of visits to her family in Honduras. She explained that her paintings’ strong sense of light and dark contrasts “going right up against each other reveals the struggle I’ve felt for years of my belonging.”

Rivas credits Terri Ybanez, an artist and her 6th-grade teacher, as a major contributor to her early appreciation for art. Rivas was fortunate to be taught by Ms. Ybanez again when she attended Brackenridge High School. Confident in her abilities as a budding artist, Rivas attended classes at SAY Si, San Antonio’s well-known youth art program.

Rivas’s career took a dramatic turn when she enrolled in health careers classes at Palo Alto Community College. Although she wished to study art, she gave in to her parent’s wishes to study something that would lead perhaps to a higher-paying job. After one year, she received certification in Phlebotomy [drawing blood from patients]. The job prospects were not appealing and she realized she could not give up her strong desire to be an artist.

A scholarship to Texas State University to study art put her back on the right track. At Texas State University she participated in student shows at SAY Si, San Anto Cultural Arts, the McNay Museum Auction, and Walker Gallery in San Marcos, Texas. Today she works for the City of San Antonio World Heritage Office and continues to be an artist and shows frequently at the Centro de Artes.


Suzy Gonzalez is another of the thirteen artists in the Luminaria “She Is / Ella Es” exhibit. Her painting “Self Love” portrays two individuals facing one another. A well-dressed young woman faces a figure with no facial features or clothes. We can only assume that “Self Love” is the past and present or perhaps what one can become.

González has deep family roots in South Texas, but she grew up in Austin and outside of Houston. As a child, she was always making art, and by her teen years, she had developed a passion for artistic activities. González earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree [Cum Laude] from Texas State University in San Marcos. After completing graduate work at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, González earned a Master of Fine Arts degree. She has taught art classes as an Adjunct Professor at Our Lady of The Lake University for the past seven years, In her artist statement, Gonzalez describes her major artistic interest in celebrating contemporary artists and activists, histories of the land, native plants and animals, and concepts of love and solidarity.

I first became familiar with Suzy Gonzalez when I wrote about the San Antonio International Airport mural ¡Adelante!, which she and her husband Michael Menchaca completed several years ago. The mural celebrates the 300-year history of the city and beyond. The artists believe that by looking at the past, we can find historical references of significance to the present.

These new small galleries provide venues for San Antonio artists and expand opportunities for San Antonio residents and visitors to experience a broader diversity of exciting art.