Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Milagros: A prayer for Downtown San Antonio

Milagros: A prayer for Downtown San Antonio

OCTOBER 19, 2022 — Hidden in plain site on the facades of UTSA’s Downtown Campus buildings are 31 bronze hearts sculpted by alumna Diana Rodriguez Gil, M.F.A. ’86 for her “Milagros” art project.

The hearts, scattered across the grounds, are said to represent the love and dedication that characterizes the UTSA community. It’s a common game for new ’Runners to explore the campus and try to find them all.

“I love that people engage in scavenger hunts with the hearts and that people cherish them today,” Rodriguez Gil shared. “I am happy to have created so many hearts because it makes the installation so much more accessible to members of the community and if you go downtown, you are likely to always see at least one.”

“Milagros are so important to the Mexican, Mexican-American and other cultures. It felt right to place them at UTSA in what could be said was at the heart of downtown.”

A familiarity with Downtown San Antonio comes easier to Rodriguez Gil than many. The UTSA alumna spent most of her childhood in schools near the downtown corridor, where she helped in her mother’s photography studio and often attended mass at San Fernando Cathedral.

Following her graduation from Providence High School, she moved to Mexico City to study at the Academia de San Carlos, a historic arts university.

 During her time there, she was mentored by artist Celia Calderon who expanded her horizons by having her explore a variety of media including printmaking and sculpture.

Following her licenciatura, the equivalent of an American bachelor of fine arts, Rodriguez Gil moved back to San Antonio to pursue her master of fine arts at UTSA.

Her mother and grandmother served as teachers, and Rodriguez Gil followed in their footsteps after her graduation in 1986 from UTSA.

She spent much of her career in public education teaching at Kennedy High School and eventually Edgewood Fine Arts Academy, where she saw students from across multiple school districts. Yet while she was teaching, she never lost sight of gallery work and her true love of public art installation.

Rodriguez Gil often made a habit of sharing her artwork in the community by placing small sculptures in public flower beds or leaving behind small print pieces downtown for passersby to take home and cherish in acts reminiscent of the contemporary World Art Drop Day. She shares that this act was very similar to the milagros (miracles) in Mexico, where worshippers would leave small pieces of art along with their prayers at churches and shrines.

“I was consumed by reading all of the prayers and offerings at churches in Mexico and at the San Fernando Cathedral downtown. They were devotional, aspirational and inspired much of the sculptural work that I created,” she explained. “So, when the opportunity with the UTSA Arts Commission came together, I was excited to share my vision and applied.”

Rodriguez Gil was thrilled to be accepted for a sponsored public art project by the UTSA Arts Commission, and to have the opportunity to share a bit of her history and love for downtown San Antonio. The anatomical heart had been a fixation in her art for some time, and the ability to explore the medium of bronze was a logical fit for a downtown installation that she wanted to have a lasting impact in the community.

“I wanted to have a message there about community presence. Milagros are so important to the Mexican, Mexican-American and other cultures. It felt right to place them at UTSA in what could be said was at the heart of downtown,” she explained. “Each heart is a prayer, and I even placed an extra-large heart at the Tomás Rivera Center in honor of Tomás Rivera.”

⇒ Learn more about the UTSA College of Liberal and Fine Arts.

It has been 36 years since the pieces were first placed at the UTSA Downtown Campus. Eventually, Rodriguez Gil would like to go back and clean up the sculptures, but she’s torn because as the sculptures take on a patina and age over time, they’ve taken on a life of their own as students and visitors have touched them. She thinks she’s content with the hearts existing as they are, as a lasting commitment and devotional to the community where she grew up.

“The Milagros are a continuous prayer for UTSA and San Antonio,” Rodriguez Gil said. “I feel that, long-term, they will help our community—the downtown community.”

Nick Ward

UTSA Today is produced by University Strategic Communications,
the official news source
of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

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UTSA Today is produced by University Communications and Marketing, the official news source of The University of Texas at San Antonio. Send your feedback to news@utsa.edu. Keep up-to-date on UTSA news by visiting UTSA Today. Connect with UTSA online at Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram.



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