The great white hope of Ireland, affectionately known as the “devil’s apples,” first reached New England’s shores 300 years ago, in 1718. The settlers called them potatoes. That same year, on the first of May, a small mission was formed in South Texas, which would later become known as the Alamo — a decidedly less enticing name than “devil’s apples.”
However, unlike the arrival of potatoes, the tricentennial celebration for the city of San Antonio will be celebrated with a city-wide anniversary celebration filled with art exhibits, historical education opportunities, volunteer initiatives and even a fitness challenge.
For those seeking public art exhibits, the tricentennial will bring a large variety of free events around the city. Downtown, there will be a large exhibition from six different art institutions in the first half of 2018.
Kicking off with Artpace San Antonio on Jan. 18, this exhibition called “Common Currents” will showcase work by more than 300 local artists. Blue Star Contemporary and the Southwestern School of Art will both follow Artpace by opening their showcases in February. Likewise, in February, the San Antonio Museum of Art will be opening its “San Antonio 1718: Art from Viceregal Mexico,” which will explore the first century of life in San Antonio. The art pieces will vary from landscapes and portraits to sculptures and decorative objects.
For a more immersive experience, “St. Anthony’s Lost & Found: A Poetry Exchange” will be presented at the Culture Commons Gallery at Plaza de Armas. Led by Trinity’s own Jennifer Browne, poetry professor and Poet Laureate of the state of Texas, the Poetry Exchange “will highlight the ability of poetry to function as a practice of self-expression, collaborative cultural exchange and community building.” The exhibit will open with a reception on the night of Jan. 25 and will remain open throughout April.
On the historical and educational aspects of the tricentennial, there will be museum exhibits dedicated to the rich history of the city. At the Witte, “Confluence and Culture: 300 Years of San Antonio History” will explore and educate visitors on the history of the city through an immersive exhibit beginning in March.
Accompanying this exhibit, the Witte will also present the “Gathering at the Waters: 12,000 years of People,” which will detail indigenous peoples’ history within San Antonio, along with a two-day speakers’ series on March 23 and 24. The speakers will cover a variety of topics, including indigenous communities, food in San Antonio and civil rights.
The Tricentennial Commission is also sponsoring four community service days throughout the year that will focus on four different categories. The first project will center around infrastructure improvement and will be on Feb. 17. Additional opportunities are listed on the commission’s website.
For personal growth, the commission is currently hosting a challenge, which began in October 2017, to have residents walk, run or bike 300 miles by the annual Siclovia event in May. While the arts and historical event focuses on mixing the past with the present-day city, this fitness challenge looks toward the future.
“These fitness activities will leave a legacy of happier, healthier lives for years to come,” said Edward Benavides, CEO of the Tricentennial Commission, in a press release.