Through our rich history and the continued efforts of our city government, San Antonio has grown to become a beautiful cultural hub. However, this wouldn’t be possible without the intersection of art and politics.

With the 2017-2022 bond funneling $24,025,000 into “library and cultural improvements” for the city, it’s time we discuss how much of the city’s art and culture is influenced by politics.

An explanation of the marriage between art and politics

When we elect government officials, we expect them to uphold American values, the typical “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Our politicians have a responsibility to ensure that we have access to every necessary right, but also that we are generally happy. Whether or not this is always the case is a different story, but fundamentally, we trust public servants to serve us.

This concept explains why San Antonio politicians have pushed for the 2017 bond. From street and neighborhood improvements to drainage and flood control, almost every category of the bond seems to fit the mold of what a politician should do.

Almost… where does “library and cultural improvements” fit?

Essentially, library and cultural improvements seek to renovate spaces like the “Red Enchilada” (the city’s main public library branch) or the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. Still, this funding doesn’t fit the “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” bit at first glance.

On one hand, art and culture falls into the back-burner when it comes to prioritizing funding for citywide programs. Art and culture and wonderful concepts to have, but when it comes down to basic survival, these aren’t exactly vital. This logic explains why only 2.82% of the 2017 bond’s money will go to cultural improvements.

On the other hand, art and culture is absolutely a perfect avenue for happiness. Considering San Antonio has recently searched for ways to improve cultural centers like the Alamo, the Missions, or renovating Pearl Brewery, city government knows having something to do in the city increases overall satisfaction with the city.

Beyond the general happiness of the San Antonian, art and culture easily becomes an economic opportunity for the city. For instance, if The Riverwalk was your instinctive answer to “what makes San Antonio unique?” then you’ve already begun drawing the connection between culture and opportunity.

The Riverwalk is just one example of a tourist trap. We hate the foot traffic, but visitors love the beauty, the art, and the overall atmosphere. Tourists choose to spend their money there. So, if we as taxpayers make sure we are bettering these spots, we will most certainly feel our money returned.

Keep in mind, even art in its most basic form like public murals, qualifies as economic return. Not only are public art spaces areas of intrigue for tourists, but they also foster a welcoming atmosphere that encourages business and familial movement.

The relationship between art and politics is certainly a complex one, but one our politicians have managed to master, at least to a certain extent.

Let us know if you think art should be included in politics more often in the comments!