The mission of community-based Bihl Haus Arts (BHA), “Creating Community through the Arts,” stems from the basic philosophy of leaving things better off than you found them, in effect taking “responsibility for our [community’s] collective well-being by providing information, access, high quality services and a meaningful sense of stability to residents of all ages and backgrounds.”* In advance of SA2020, BHA programming has always reflected “a diverse range of artistic expression that builds on our rich cultural heritage” by bringing together artists and community members from across San Antonio who employ the arts to negotiate and promote cross-cultural and intergenerational understanding and awareness. Because “the arts are integral to our way of life for citizens of all ages and backgrounds,” this type of programming, important to our community’s health, well-being and authenticity, is dedicated to creating an environment in which cultural understanding can grow and flourish. By providing quality exhibition and education opportunities for all ages, BHA recognizes and enables each individual to participate in the arts and engage in the creative process, resulting in indispensible freedoms of inquiry and self-expression.
BHA’s attendance rates have climbed steadily since its inception in 2005. Many of the events produced by BHA contain opportunities for members of the Greater San Antonio Community (artists, BHA Docents and Goldens, staff and community members) to collaborate with other organizations and institutions, which helps build community and academic networks and fosters cultural understanding by focusing on joint ventures that affirm the important role of the arts through learning partnerships, and an educational experience that emphasizes global awareness and experimental and outreach opportunities.
Bihl Haus Arts produces 7-8 exhibits annually, plus related coordinated programming (literary/dance/musical/theatrical performances), of contemporary art that “reflects the dynamic nature of San Antonio’s artistic, literary and cultural communities and movements.” BHA activities help stimulate the local arts economy (1) through the On & Off Fredericksburg Road Studio Tour, during which patrons have the opportunity to purchase and commission artworks directly from the artists; (2) through its singular “GO! Arts Program,” which currently employs 12 part- time local professional artist-teachers, a number that will increase significantly as the GO! Arts Program, which “stimulates lifelong learning,” expands to other senior communities (GO! Arts is currently offered at 14 sites) over the coming years; and (3) by providing stipends/honoraria for most artists who exhibit or perform under the umbrella of Bihl Haus Arts. BHA is also the site and generator of several public art projects, including a new 2014 community mural project at the Alicia Treviño López Senior Center, which was unveiled on December 15, 2014. The result of BHA efforts over the past 10 years is an increasingly “livable and vibrant community” along the Fredericksburg Road Corridor “that is strongly connected to its past”—as evidence, read the 7 neighborhood essays in the On & Off Fred catalog researched/written/complied by Executive Director and art historian Kellen Kee McIntyre, PhD, in collaboration with neighborhood association representatives—“and maintains its small town feel.”
The 2015 season includes 7 contemporary art exhibitions; multiple readings/performances/lectures by distinguished authors/musicians; and a festival, the 8th annual “On & Off Fredericksburg Road Studio Tour.” From its foundation in 2008, the “On & Off Fredericksburg Road Studio Tour,” which centers on 7 neighborhoods on and off Fred Road with “compelling and unique personalities,” was designed to “engage community networks” and “increase economic impact of the arts.” This in turn has spurred “a renaissance of artistic creativity” in what had been a culturally underserved area of the City targeted for revitalization. “A new vibrant cultural economy is beginning to flourish,” along the Fredericksburg Road Corridor, a historically important gateway to Downtown (so important, in fact, that VIA’s Primo launched on Fred in 2011), in part due to the leadership of Bihl Haus Arts and this signature event, its “intellectual property.” The tour also explores “neighborhood walkability” in areas where artist studios and arts-related businesses are concentrated, and encourages “Center City population growth” by making this area, an urban bedroom community for Downtown, especially friendly and welcoming to artists and their families. (updated July 2015)
*quotation marks and italics indicate citations from SA2020, http://www.sa2020.org/causes/