Sculpture for All: Public Art in San Antonio

By: Janis Turk

January 15, 2014

Take a Rio San Antonio Cruise around the downtown reach of the San Antonio River Walk and you’ll see all the restaurants, bars, outdoor cafes, theatres and sites loved by locals and tourists alike. But if you want to stretch your boundaries a bit and set off in search of the city’s hottest art, hail a Rio Taxi (or take a leisurely stroll) and head up the Museum Reach of the River Walk.

Along the way, art is in the air – and hanging from bridges overhead. Pay attention as you pass under walkways, overpasses and bridges, and you’ll spot remarkable free permanent public art.

As you stroll along – or as your Rio Taxi boat glides up this still fairly new (2009) extension of the San Antonio River Walk, with its lush landscaped grounds, quiet bike trails and fully accessible walking paths – you’ll see a dozen impressive outdoor art installations, all commissioned and funded by private donations.


Rio Taxi | San Antonio's Public Art

Rio Taxis will carry you through the impressive lock and dam system © San Antonio CVB


If you take the Rio Taxi river barges you’ll pass through an impressive lock and dam system that raises boats to a water level 9-feet higher as they head to their final destination at the Pearl Brewery complex, a happening area with restaurants, shops, a micro brewery, a weekend farmers’ market, cooking classes and more. At The Pearl, Rio Taxis turn around to head back downtown.


San Antonio Museum of Art | San Antonio's Public Art

River landing at the San Antonio Museum of Art © San Antonio CVB


The 30-minute Rio Taxi ride, which takes you past the San Antonio Museum of Art (which is housed in the ornate historic Lone Star Brewery), provides the perfect opportunity to get up close to individual exhibits such as “F.I.S.H.”, a work featuring a school of 7-foot-long fibreglass sunfish that glow and sparkle after dark, created by artist Donald Lipski.


Sunfish Installation | San Antonio's Public Art

Fibreglass sunfish dazzling above the river © San Antonio CVB


Also check out Martin Richman’s “Shimmer Field”, an instillation of hundreds of rectangular prismatic strips, or “light chimes,” strung under a bridge. Then there’s the “29° 25′ 57″ N AND 98° 29′ 13” W” exhibit by Stuart Allen, made of hanging panels of coloured blocks that seem to morph and shift in changing patterns.


Light Chimes Under Bridge | San Antonio's Public Art

Don’t miss the hundreds of light chimes hanging underneath the bridge © San Antonio CVB


Listen closely, and you’ll also hear the unexpected sounds of “Sonic Passage”, an audio-art installation by San Francisco sound pioneer and artist Bill Fontana, which offers an aural treat: bird calls, crickets, croaking bullfrogs, buzzing insects, rushing water and manmade sounds. There’s also “Grotto” a Hobbit-like faux bois concrete grotto and waterfall created by San Antonio artist Carlos Cortes, a third-generation faux bois artisan.


How to get there? Don’t get confused by the Rio San Antonio River Cruise barges; you’ll need to take a Rio Taxi instead – the only boats that serve the Museum Reach.


With 39 stops along the River, beginning downtown by the big hotels, Rio Taxis are easy to spot; Look for a barge with a large red and black chequered flag at the stern. Purchase Rio Taxi tickets online, or at San Antonio River Cruises ticket booths along the River Walk. Unlimited 24-hour to 3-day passes for both downtown and Museum Reach cost between $10-$25.


Our partnership with Delta provides numerous connections across the United States and Canada, making booking flights to San Antonio even easier.


What’s your favourite piece of art along San Antonio’s Museum Reach? Share your thoughts with us below.


Written by Janis Turk



Janis Turk

Janis Turk is an award-winning travel writer and photographer and the author of the popular travel guide book, Frommer’s San Antonio & Austin Day by Day. Turk’s travel writing and photography have appeared in magazines such as Hemispheres (United Airlines), Spirit (Southwest Airlines), Pontiac Performance, Chile Pepper, New York City Resident, AAA Texas Journey, and more, as well as popular newspapers such as The Chicago Tribune, The Dallas Morning News, The Houston Chronicle and others. She also scribes online pieces for popular travel sites such as Frommer’s and GoNOMAD. Turk divides her time between New Orleans, Louisiana, and her home in Seguin, Texas.

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