SSA History/Timeline


A Brief Timeline of the Southwest School of Art

1963 Margaret Pace Willson invites artists to her home to discuss the future of the visual arts in San Antonio.

1965 The Southwest Craft Center is incorporated as a nonprofit to “promote education in the visual arts and crafts…”

1967 Founders Helen Marie Hendrie, Nancy Negley, Maggie Saunders Block, Edith McAllister and Betty Urschel meet to organize the opening of the Southwest Craft Center.

1968 The Southwest Craft Center opens in San Antonio’s historic La Villita area.

1969 Saturday Morning Discovery, an arts education program for children, begins.

1970 First adult art classes begin. Original instructors include Bruce Duderstadt, Terry Gallagher, Mary Green, Jamie Killian, Patsy Light, Kathryn Y. Maxham, Martha Mood, Josie Neal, Linda Pace, Margaret Pace and Nancy Pawel.

1971 The fledgling art school moves, at the invitation of the San Antonio Conservation Society, to the historic but dilapidated Ursuline Convent and Academy site. The school holds its first art exhibition in the former Chapel.

1973 The Dormitory Building is officially open, and the school holds a two-day arts festival called “Folk Craft Experience,” now called Fiesta Arts Fair.

1974-1976  San Antonio civic and cultural leaders piece together purchases, gifts, and money for renovation, as the site begins to come back to life.

1977 Dennis Smith named head of the Ceramics Department, and the Weaving and Fibers Studio inhabits the former Priest’s House.

1981 Claire Holliday becomes Chair of the Metals Department. Following ten years of commitment and effort, the entire historic site has now been purchased.

1982 The Edith McAllister Ceramics Studio opens.

1984 With Jeffrey Moore as the school’s Director, Margaret Pace Willson donates funds to launch the Picante Papermaking Studio, the first papermaking studio in the region.

1987 Director Jeffrey Moore leaves and Ric Collier arrives. The school is named “Best Artists Organization in the State” by the Texas Arts Alliance, and co-hosts the 6th Annual Texas Sculpture Symposium.

1988 Robert Hils, who had worked with Kay Maxham, is named Fiber Department Chair.

1989 The school hosts the Society of North American Goldsmiths national conference. Visiting and exhibiting artists include Joyce J. Scott, ceramist William Wilhelmi, video artist Randy Twaddle and Chicago painter Hollis Sigler. Beck Whitehead becomes Paper and Book Arts Department Chair. Pioneering developer Bernard L. Lifshutz begins his first of five years as President of the Board of Trustees.

1990 Collaborative exhibitions held with the San Antonio Art Institute and the Blue Star Art Space, where work by Jun Kaneko is shown. Exhibitions at the school included installations by Faith Ringgold and Patrick Siler. The school organizes its innovative Mobile Arts Program for bringing visual arts to children throughout the community.

1993 Photographer William Wegman is a visiting artist, and solo exhibitions are presented by James C. Watkins, Judy Bankhead and Terry Ybanez.

1996 New Director Paula Owen arrives. Korean national treasure Cho Ki-Jung and textile artist Akemi Nakano Cohn lead workshops.

1997 A contemporary metals exhibition, Hard Evidence, includes U.S. metalsmiths Harlan W. Butt, Allison McGeorge, C. James Meyer and Diane Falkenhagen. Jim LaVilla-Havelin joins the school as its Director of Young Artist Programs.

1998  Renovation of a former Sears Automotive Center is complete and the new Navarro Campus opens, encompassing the Russell Hill Rogers Gallery, the Ellison Lecture Hall, and large, sophisticated
studios specifically designed for visual arts. The Board renames the school  the Southwest School of Art & Craft. The Painting, Drawing and Printmaking Department is established with the donation of printmaking equipment from the former San Antonio Art Institute; early the next year, artist Margaret Craig is named its Chair.

2000 Rudolf Staffel given first Distinguished Artist Award. The Willard H. Lende Photography Department’s well-equipped darkroom facilities are dedicated.

2001 Zierat, an exhibition originated at the art school, is its first to travel internationally. Victor Pagona is named Photography Chair. The historic site’s Sesquicentennial Celebration is marked by the opening of the History Museum and the publishing of an illustrated, large-format book, “School by the River.”

2002 Exhibitions by Katie Pell, Suzanne Paquette, Veronica Fernandez, Steve Davis, Art Guard and Jose Guadiana bring attention to local/regional artists; Mexican artist Paula Santiago and a national ceramics exhibition, Big Head, keep the perspective outbound as well.

2003 American glass artist icon Dale Chihuly enjoys a major exhibition at school. A Ken Little retrospective exhibition, Little Changes, is organized by the art school and travels nationally. Eleven of the country’s most intriguing contemporary quilters present The Hive Project. An Historic Preservation Master Plan is launched.

2004 Thirty-four SA artists investigate the complexities of water in the exhibition H2O: Considering the Hydrosphere. San Antonio artist Gary Sweeny, Tom Wright (the school’s first photography instructor and a celebrated ‘60s and ‘70s rock & roll photographer), and nationally-known sculptor Catherine Lee all have solo exhibitions. The Digital Media Studio opens.

2005 A solo exhibition by Angel Rodriguez-Diaz starts the year; one by Yuriko Yamiguchi ends it. The leading international papermaking group, Friends of Dard Hunter, holds its international conference here. Ceramicist Steve Reynolds mounts a major retrospective, alongside a national ceramics survey exhibit, The Visceral Vessel. A Certificate Program is instituted to recognize serious students.

2006 The iconic Mexican game Lotería illuminates the summer with an exhibition of local artists’ interpretations, and the Fotoseptiembre exhibition, Casting a New Light, is named “best exhibition of the year” for its multi-faceted, interactive approach to contemporary works using arcane processes.

2007 Japanese artist and philosopher Akiiko Izukura shows his silk sculptures and leads a fiber dyeing ritual. The school partners with the San Antonio Museum of Art to bring a blockbuster exhibition, The Baroque World of Fernando Botero, to San Antonio.

2008 A sculptural fountain by Jesus Moroles honoring Margaret Pace Willson is installed at the entrance to the historic site. Gary Schott replaces Claire Holliday as Chair of the Metals Department.

2009 Saturday Morning Discovery is perpetually endowed in honor of its 40th year. The sagging wall along Augusta Street is replaced in a $1.5 million, 9-month-long project.

2010  The school’s name is shortened to the Southwest School of Art. The annual McMahon Fiber Arts Symposium is launched. Exhibitions by Bruce Metcalf, Kurt Weiser and Vincent Valdez bring critical notice.

2011 The exhibition year began with works by Jon Eric Riis, who also donates a major piece to the school. Other nationally prominent exhibiting artists include Laura McPhee and Sonya Clark.

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