San Antonio is known for its celebration of the arts and culture, and the Briscoe Western Art Museum, which opens its doors this weekend, is no exception. The first museum to open in San Antonio in over 30 years, the Briscoe Western Art Museum is dedicated to a wide variety of subgenres under the theme of American Western art, including cowboy art, American Indian art, Spanish colonial art and Mexican folk art.
“About a decade ago, a number of founding board members got together, all of whom were Western art lovers and collectors, and decided that there was a void in the arts world here in S.A., since there was no dedicated western art museum, and determined to create one,” said Steven Karr, executive director. “The Briscoe exhibits both art and artifacts, but there isn’t a heavy interpretive scope that you would see in a lot of history museums. We provide some context, but for the most part it is about the ability to view a painting or saddle and be able to draw your own conclusion based upon what you see as a visitor.”
Contrary to the majority of history museums, the exhibits throughout the Briscoe are arranged thematically rather than chronologically.
“The industry term is “˜hub-and-spoke’ when you’re able to move to an area freely without following a predetermined order,” Karr said. “I think that lends to a more positive visitor experience.”
One of the museum’s most notable artifacts is Pancho Villa’s last known saddle, given to him around 1920. Both historically and aesthetically valuable, the saddle was made by known saddle makers from Mexico and is adorned with braided silver and tooled leather. In the middle of the lobby stands a momentous bronze contemporary piece by John Coleman, titled “Visions of Change,” which depicts an American Indian with buffalo on one side and a cowboy with longhorns on the other side.
“One of my favorite pieces is a saddle that’s from 16th-century Spain, which is silk-embroidered, and is so old and in such beautiful condition. It’s an extraordinary piece and I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Jennifer Wijangco, the senior head of development. “I also love the Alamo diorama””I had no idea how cool it would be, and it’s so much fun to look at.”
In order to commemorate the grand opening, the Briscoe is holding celebrations from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 26, and Sunday, Oct. 27, at the museum.
“We wanted to think about the West in terms of key figures, and the weekend is going to be reflective of that. We wanted to make sure that the weekend represents fully who we are as a museum,” Wijango said.
Highlights of the weekend program include performances by the San Antonio Charro Association and Ballet Folklorico, a Nevaquaya Arts Native Dance & Music Show, a trick roper and a cowboy storyteller. A variety of traditional Southwestern-themed food will be served from a traditional chuck wagon, while artist demonstrations will take place across the museum. The galleries will also be open at this time, and admission to the event is free.
“The Briscoe Museum will have something for everyone, from the beautiful art and artifacts to family activities and, of course, a chuck wagon cookout. We are looking forward to welcoming visitors from all over,” said Tracy Wolff, a museum board member.
Located at 210 West Market St. on the River Walk, the Briscoe charges $4 for admission of students. To find more information about the Briscoe Western Art Museum, visit www.BriscoeMuseum.org.
“The Briscoe Museum will help introduce a new era for the arts in San Antonio as the museum continues to build upon the region’s extensive creative and cultural offerings,” said Debbie Montford, chair of the Briscoe Western Art Museum’s board of directors.