NEA awards Our Town grant to UTSA, City of San Antonio and VIA

Tobin Center River View

Artist's rendering of Tobin Center for the Performing Arts

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(July 13, 2012) -- The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) College of Architecture has been selected to receive a $50,000 Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to lead a community engagement process focused on the design development of a public art transit stop near the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. UTSA will partner with The City of San Antonio’s Office of Cultural Affairs and VIA Metropolitan Transit to shepherd the project, which will demonstrate the opportunity to integrate public art, public transit and a public cultural arts facility.

Through the Our Town grant program, the NEA supports partnerships of not-for-profit organizations and local government entities, to uphold the goals of creative, transformational place-making projects that create community identity and a sense of place, with the arts at their core.

In his letter of support for the specific grant application from the city, Mayor Julián Castro noted the project’s ability to incorporate the goals of several SA2020 vision areas and reinforce the collaborative spirit of its focus on downtown development.

"This is great news," Castro said. "It is collaborative projects like this that bring about creative growth in our city. The Our Town grant will also enable the Office of Cultural Affairs to further its efforts to bring art and culture to public spaces."

Beginning this fall, the UTSA College of Architecture, the City's Office of Cultural Affairs and VIA’s Planning/Urban Design office will engage the San Antonio community in a series of public discussions to develop design concepts for a new public art transit stop near the Tobin Center. This site will be an important transit connection to the Center which is located in the north portion of the San Antonio River Walk, a culturally and historically significant feature of the city. Prominent local and national artists, architects and designers will be invited to develop momentum for the design process and provide public art and design expertise. UTSA students will participate throughout the design phase by helping to facilitate the public engagement process. Students also will assist in the development of two- and three-dimensional design renderings and models, among other projects.

"We are honored to receive this grant from the National Endowment for the Arts that gives us the opportunity to involve local residents, artists and other key stakeholders in the ongoing conversation of public space design and its ability to connect residents and visitors to our cultural arts venues," said Taeg Nishimoto, professor, associate dean for research, outreach and graduate studies in the UTSA College of Architecture and project director for the grant.

The redevelopment of the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts will serve as a gateway to the Museum Reach of the River Walk extension. When it opens in fall 2014, the center will draw musicians, actors and artists from around the world in addition to serving as the home of a number of resident companies.

"This grant offers the opportunity to design a public art focused transit stop and aligns with our commitment to improve our downtown transit facilities and serve important cultural destinations," said Keith Parker, president and CEO of VIA Metropolitan Transit.

"This NEA grant for a new public art transit stop is a wonderful example of the role the Tobin center is already playing in downtown redevelopment,” said Bruce Bugg, chairman of the Bexar County Performing Arts Center Foundation, which will own and operate the Tobin center. "The Tobin and its impact will transform the downtown landscape and will continue to stimulate new public investments that will enhance the arts-and-culture atmosphere in this important part of downtown."

UTSA is one of 80 recipients selected from a pool of 317 applicants selected for an Our Town grant. The NEA awarded grants totaling $4.95 million to recipients in 44 states and the District of Columbia. For a complete list of projects, visit the NEA website.