The San Anto Cultural Arts program has been painting community murals, sponsoring art classes for young students, and publishing an arts newspaper for the past thirty years. Executive Director Ben Tremillo and his small staff of six are driven by “this need for community members to have a voice and agency in what their neighborhoods look like.”
The non-profit organization San Anto Cultural Arts was founded in 1993 by Manny Castillo, Juan Ramos, and Cruz Ortiz. By his early 30s, Castillo had established himself as one of the leading Chicano art promoters in San Antonio, determined to follow and expand the muralist traditions initiated by Anastacio Torres and Juan Hernadez at the Cassiano Homes over the decade of the 1980s.
Castillo led the organization as its first Executive Director from 1993 until 2009 when he died of cancer at the age of 40. Austin Current writer Margaret Moser considered Castillo one of the leading “Keepers of the Flame. ” She wrote a touching tribute to Castillo’s legacy in a January 2009 article. Moser followed the Austin music scene where Castillo often appeared with bands,
such as Snowbyrd, and commented on Castillo’s talents as a musician. More importantly, Moser recognized Castillo as a tireless leader of the San Anto Cultural Arts, which had “tied together the Alamo City’s cultural and ethnic legacies in 30 murals.”
To date, the San Anto Cultural Arts organization has completed more than 60 murals, the majority in the Westside, and taught hundreds of young students about the arts. The students range in age from five to fifteen. San Anto’s busiest time is the summer months when 30 students attend all-day art classes.
The San Anto Cultural Arts are one of the city’s bright stars focused on community art. While best known for their colorful murals, they fulfill other important community needs in their educational outreach and weekly newsprint editions concerning history, culture, and the arts. Today, The San Anto Cultural Arts remains true to its vision of building a “community where people have the opportunity to realize their creative abilities, interpret their culture and heritage through their own unique vision, and to cultivate and showcase the talents of residents living in San Antonio’s Westside. “